Frontal with Jesus and the Evangelists

Textiles and clothing


Fabric (late 14th C.), embroidery (around 1393), braids (14th C.)

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Five satin damask; warp and weft of red silk; done on the shaft loom. Braid fringe of green silk and gold; done on the braid loom. Fabric and fringe almost certainly made in Valencia. Decorated with embroidery done on a linen base placed in a frame and applied later to the satin fabric. The embroidery is picturial, made of polychrome needle-painted silk, of figures, long stitch and cordwork; and of needle-painted gold and silver, couched, cordwork, chain stitch, chequered and filled. Sequins applied. Almost certainly embroidered in a workshop in Sant Joan de les Abadesses. At the top there is a band decorated with an undulating horizontal stalk with flowers and leaves, which has Abbot Vilalba's coat of arms three times with the end of the crosier and the mitre at the top, as the abbot of Sant Joan de les Abadesses was a mitred abbot, i.e., ranked the same as a bishop. The fringe hangs from the band. Band and fringe are the equivalent of the dustcover of an altarpiece, adapted to needle painting. Frontal commissioned by Arnau de Vilalba, abbot of the Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, in 1393. The frontal is centred upon the figure of Christ, accompanied by two Evangelists on either side; on the right are Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, and on the left, Saint John and Saint Luke. The figure of Christ is much larger than those of the Evangelists, thus keeping the traditional Romanesque difference in size between the Deity and the other figures depicted. He is sitting on a Gothic throne with tall pinnacles, wearing a tunic and over it a cloak with broad folds; with his right hand he is blessing and with the left he is holding the cross attached to the orb he has on his left knee, and which bears the inscription: “Asia-Europe-Africa”, each of the parts of the known world at that time. Each Evangelist is on a plinth, his body slightly inclined, typical of the Gothic style, and he carries in his hands a phylactery saying: “Secundum…” and his name. At the bottom, between two Evangelists, there is Abbot Vilalba's coat of arms inside a lozenge formed by four branches with a flower and two leaves which, in turn, is inside a circle outlined in red with a gilt interior. Small branches with a flower and two leaves are dotted all over the frontal. The perfection of the embroidery, which is particularly obvious on the figures, above all in the quality of the colouring of the flesh, is proof that it was made in a highly renowned workshop. Moreover, the great perfection of the facial features is also evidence that the maker of the cartoon, with regard to the figures, must have been a very important painter or have been a member of his circle (some authors have proposed the name of Bernat Destorrents), in the French Gothic style.

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Room15 ,Floor1

9-10-11 Gothic Art

12-13-14 Renaissance

15-16 Textiles and Clothing

17 Glass

Detalls de l’obra


Valencia (?) (fabric); Catalonia, Sant Joan de les Abadesses (?) (embroidery), Valencia (braids)


Fabric (late 14th C.), embroidery (around 1393), braids (14th C.)


Fabric: satin, silk warp and weft; Embroidery: linen tabby, polychrome silk, silver and gold threads; Braids: silk and gold


110 x 240 cm


From the monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses (Ripollès)


MEV 1951