3rd Online Display – Melissande of Berwick

Name: Melissande of Berwick

Location: Canton of the Towers, Barony of Carolingia

There are many examples of embroidered coifs worn by women across Europe from the 15th century onward. Even as late as the 19 th century examples of head coverings embellished with colored threads, spangles and even pearls are seen in various Western cultures. What is less often seen are those head coverings, be they cauls or coifs, decorated
with beadwork.

I have recently become very interested in the use of colored glass beads, gems, and semi-precious stones used during the Middle Ages. Not only as decorative elements but aside from some ecclesiastical pieces I was finding few extant samples. It also currently seems as though the art of beading these items was more prevalent in Europe and not
England, based on the current pieces I have found.

In February 2021 I took a class from Lady Adair of Makyswell, Kingdom of Atlantia, Barony of Hawkwood during the University of Atlantia. Lady Adair shared her research with the class. With those examples as a starting point, I have found a few additional examples of headwear as well as Alms and Reliquary bags.

In period portraits, cauls were made of fabric, or fabric covered by netted cord. There are references in Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe accounts to cauls made of wire, braided hair, and “cheine lace”, a possible reference to a precursor of crochet. Cauls were also frequently decorated with applied cord, couched or embroidered on, as well as
pearls, gems, and other expensive decoration for the nobility. A hairnet, or “snood” with a layer of fabric underneath would make a splendid and period-looking caul to wear alone or with the headwear of your choice.

1) Coif Bead Embroidery (2018). Lady Adair of Makyswell, Kingdom of Atlantia, Barony of Hawkwood. University of Atlantia, February 13, 2021.
2) Leed, Drea (1996-2005). 16th Century Cauls, Hairnets and Snoods. Elizabethan Costume Page.
3) Woman’s Cap, 1500-1525, Venetian. Linen and silk, metal-wrapped thread, glass beads. Accession Number: 16.154.14. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY.
4) Portrait of Hedwig Jagiellon (1513–1573) by Hans Krell painted in 1537. Grunewald Hunting Lodge, Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany.
5) Portrait of Laura, celebrated in his poetry by Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), Italian poet and humanist. Portrait in the Laurentian Library, Florence

7 thoughts on “3rd Online Display – Melissande of Berwick

  1. This is so lovely!!! Beaded embroidery is something that has always escaped me (and my fingers).

    Thank you for sharing your work, Melissande!!!

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