The  Victoria and Albert Museum have announced that some masterpieces of English medieval embroidery from the museum’s collection will be going on display as part of Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery. 


The Toledo Cope, ca. 1320-30 (c) Cabildo Catedral Primada, Toledo.jpg
The Toledo Cope, ca. 1320-1330 (c)Cabildo Catedral Primada. 

Running at the museum from the 1st October 2016 to the 5th February 2017, the exhibition will also include pieces that haven’t been seen in England since they were originally created in the medieval period.

Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery will be the largest exhibition devoted to the subject in half a century and will include over 100 hand-made objects associated with some of the most notable figures of the era.

From Latin, the phrase ‘opus anglicanum’  means ‘English work’ and was first used in the 13th century to described the highly prized and luxurious embroideries made in England of silk and gold thread, filled with detail.

The Victoria and Albert Museum holds the largest collection of these works in the world and will use this exhibition as an opportunity to reveal new detail on the tools, materials and makers behind the embroideries – many of them women based in the city of London.

Opus Anglicanum will explore the different phases  in the technical, artistic and economic development of opus anglicanum across three centuries. One of the highlights of the exhibition will be the Toledo Cope which will return to England for the first time since it was created in the 14th century.

The heart of the display will concentrate on  the monumental embroidery created in the first half of the 14th century, when English embroidery achieved its greatest popularity and status in Europe. On display will be some of the most complex and ambitious ceremonial cloaks ever made for use in church services.

There will also be focus on the period between 1350 and the English Reformation of the 1530’s. It will look at the damaging impact of the Reformation on English embroidery, which led to the destruction of many precious embroidered church vestments.

Glyn Davies, exhibition co-curator, said: “As a historian, the opportunity to see all these objects, normally scattered across museums and cathedral treasuries in Europe and North America, together in one place is thrilling.”

Meanwhile, Clare Browne, co-curator and textiles specialist, continued: “The exquisite attention to detail in these embroidered works makes them not just impressive examples of craftsmanship and luxury materials, but vivid glimpses of life both in reality and in the medieval imagination.”

Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery will be on display at the V&A from the 1st October until the 5th February 2017. For more information and to book tickets visit: