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Diversity of materials, variety of problems. Conservation of the medieval cross-orphrey depicting the Crucifixion

Anna Gołębiowska


L'orfroi est part de la collection de textile du musée de l'archevêché de Przemyśl (sud-est de la Pologne). L'orfroi est realisé dans la broderie du meme nom, typique du travail du gothique tardif.

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1Conservation of the medieval cross-orphrey depicting the Crucifixion is the MA project at the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Antique Textiles supervised by professor Helena Hryszko. The orphrey is a part of textile collection from Archdiocese’s Museum in Przemyśl (south-east of Poland). The object’s dimensions are 101 x 56 cm. Orphrey is made in so-called relief embroidery technique and it’s a typical example of late gothic embroidery from North and Central Europe. It arrived to the department in a very poor condition, badly damaged by time and previous repairs, deformed and soiled. Destruction reached every layer of the object.

Fig.1 Cross-orphrey

Fig.1 Cross-orphrey

Cross-orphrey depicting the Crucifixion, before conservation.

Credits: Anna Gołębiowska


2 The orphrey is made of various materials. Lining consists of three kinds of linens and paper used as a interlining. Silk, wool and silk with linen weft were applied on linen ground. Multilayered, relief heads of the Christ and the Saints are very special elements. The figures’ heads are made of vegetable fibers, threads, plain linen and silk with linen weft embroidered with colorful silks. The noses are reinforced by small, wooden elements. Hair and beards are made of silk threads wound around a copper wire. The linen ground is partially treated with red pigment. Bodies of the Christ and Saints have been build up from the surface with numerous kinds of linens. The most interesting of all of the materials used in the orphrey is the gilt- silver or silver membrane thread, so-called Cyprus gold. This kind of thread was used in textiles and embroideries from 12th to 16th century. Almost the whole of the orphey’s surface is covered with Cyprus gold couched down with linen threads. Presence of this material results in a non-standard conservation approach.

Identification and documentation

3 Full identification and documentation of the technique and technology of such a complex object require various methods. Photographs in many scales, microscopic photographs and X-rays were taken. Fibers were identified by it’s characteristic chemical analysis and microscopic image. Metal layer on membrane threads was analyzed using various physico-chemical methods such as microchemical reactions, cross sections, XRF, SEM.

4 Complete identification is a very significant stage of all conservation works. Detailed knowledge about Cyprus gold, it’s structure and it’s features is one of the most important aspects in this project. It’s a base for making any decisions during the process of conservation and determining methods and steps taken on every stage. The most difficult problem to solve is a safe cleaning of the object especially it’s fragile membrane threads.

5 Poster will show multilayered construction of the cross-orphrey, the diversity of techniques and materials used, with a special emphasis on the use and structure of membrane threads.

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Document annexe

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig.1 Cross-orphrey
Légende Cross-orphrey depicting the Crucifixion, before conservation.
Crédits Credits: Anna Gołębiowska
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,5M
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Anna Gołębiowska, « Diversity of materials, variety of problems. Conservation of the medieval cross-orphrey depicting the Crucifixion », CeROArt [En ligne],  | 2014, mis en ligne le 08 septembre 2014, consulté le 24 juin 2017. URL :

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Anna Gołębiowska

Anna Gołębiowska, born in 1987 in Cieszyn, southern Poland. Student of the final year at the Departement of Conservation and Restoration of Antique Textiles, Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

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Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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