Arabella De Mere

Brocaded Belt for the Coronation of Queen Vienna

This belt was designed for the occasion of the coronation of Their Majesties Wilhelm and Vienna of the East Kingdom.  With Her Majesty’s persona being late 15th century, I looked for a suitable design for a brocaded band the could be used as a belt.  I discovered in Ecclesiastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance by Nancy Spies a band known as the “So-called Stole of St. Adalrich” which dates from the 15th century.  I used one of the motifs as inspiration while expanding the pattern of the band to include a Tudor rose as a motif symbolizing her role as Queen of the East.

The band is done in Her Majesty’s colors of blue and white and is made from 20/2 silk, is 70 cards wide, and is 4.5cm wide in comparison to the original band, which was 4.8cm in width.  The original was also made in multicolored linen, 35 cards wide, and featuring blue with white motifs as elements.  It took approximately 80 hours to complete at a rate of around 1 inch of brocade per hour.  The belt was made using period-style tools such as a wooden box loom, bone shuttle, and wooden cards.

The difficulty in this band is shown in the large number of cards used, as well as the complex pattern creation.  It may not look difficult, but getting the five petals of the flower to appear similar in size and shape was very challenging.  This was due to the odd number of petals all facing the middle at different angles.  Another challenge was to be able to insert regular blue silk tie-downs as part of the pattern itself, although only one hidden white silk tie-down was needed per repetition of the pattern.

What I would do differently on the belt made for Queen Vienna:  due to time constraints, I was unable to refine the pattern to the degree I would like.  The flower, while having five petals, has more rounded petals than the typical Tudor Rose.  I also had to incorporate a tie-down on one line of the pattern due to an unavoidable long float.  If I had had more time, I may have been able to adjust for this.

Spies, p. 166 – detail of diamond pattern

While doing research for this project, I happened upon paintings by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder, many of which depicted women wearing wide brocade belts.  To my amazement as well as amusement, the same belt is seen in at least two different paintings by this artist.  This style of belt seemed to be popular in Germany in the early-to-mid 16th century, as shown in his “Porträt einer jungen Frau” from 1539, shown on the following page, as well as an earlier portrait of Elisabeth Bellinghausen that he painted in 1538.  This inspired me to take my unused warp from my original project and attempt to re-create the belt from these paintings and bring it to life.

My band is currently a work-in-progress, as I continue to improve the pattern for a more authentic result.  After weaving a full repetition of my original pattern, I noted places that needed to be adjusted.  I am currently weaving the refined pattern, with hopes that it will look even more like the original depicted in the paintings.

What made this band challenging was taking an artist’s interpretation of an actual woven object and recreating a pattern from something that may not have been painted in a way that was proportionally correct.  As seen with many paintings, it only has to “look right” and not actually be functional or entirely correct to its proportions outside of the picture frame.

Detail of belt from portraits

What I would do differently for this band – I was restricted by the size of the original belt on the loom, if I were to do this band as its own project, I would increase the number of cards, making the band slightly wider to better conform to the appearance in the paintings.  I am already adapting the pattern to better reflect what is shown in the paintings, and there was a slight tension issue which required a complete re-adjustment of the band on the loom, but it worked itself out as I continued to weave.

Portrait of Elisabeth Bellignhausen, c. 1538
Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1539


Ecclesiastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance by Nancy Spies, p. 166

“Portrait of Elisabeth Bellinghausen” by Bartholomäus the Elder, 1538 CE.  Original is in the collection of the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Porträt einer jungen Frau” by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder, 1539 CE.  Original is in the collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, Germany.

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