Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Italian Blackwork

In the Victoria & Albert Museum in London there is a 16th century Italian Blackwork sampler. This sampler fascinated American needlework teacher Dakota Rogers so much that she reproduced patterns from it to make an exquisite sampler of her own called Tiramisu.

This is my own stitched Tiramisu, I took the class from Dakota Rogers through the Embroiderers Guild of America in 2008:

La Muta by Raphael depicts some Italian Blackwork, check out the cuffs.

Here we see a late 16th century Italian man's shirt taken from At Home in Renaissance Italy, 2006:

In the Palazzo Davanzati in Florence there is a 17th century Italian sampler with Blackwork on it:

Elisa Ricci
in her Ricami Italiani Antichi e Moderni, 1925 notes that Punto Scritto (Backstitch) in Italy is most often found in combination with some other embroidery technique like Satin Stitching or Cross Stitching such as the fretwork in Assisi Embroidery:

Lucia Petrali Castaldi in her Dizionario Enciclopedico di Lavori Femminili, 1941 lists Punto Scritto being interchangeable with Punto Volterrano [Volterra Stitch]. There are no examples pictured and no other information.

In the introduction of the 2007 book Volterrano 2006 by Antoinetta Monzo Menossi, Rosalba Niccoli talks about the difficulty she experienced in finding any trace of Punto Volterrano in Volterra, Italy. It seems there were two kinds of embroidery: the oldest being "il punto scritto volterra" [Volterra Backstitch], said to have been executed in gold thread though no proof or extant samples survive; and "il punto volterrano" [Volterra Stitch] created by a teacher named Emma Gazzarri from the Technical Institute in the mid 1900s. Antoinetta Monzo Menossi took all this information into account when creating patterns for the small volume of delightful designs (text in Italian).

Other Italian books on Blackwork are: Poesia di uno stile: Interpretazione Liberty by Manuela Alida D'Anna, 2009 (text in Italian, English and German) charming designs in Art Nouveau style with excellent technical execution instructions; L'Arte del Blackwork, 2007 and Idee in Blackwork, 2009 by Bruna Scagnetti & Gabriella Antoniazzi (text in Italian and English) of the association Il Friuli Ricama.

All books listed are available from Tombolo Disegni. Click on: Libri/Books, then Libri Ricamo, then Ricamo Italiani or Blackwork (different books are listed on different pages) – send an email request to order.

Thanks to Armida for the Palazzo Davanzati sampler photo!


  1. Bellissimo! Thanks so much

  2. I really love the piece from the Palazzo Davanzati, the decorative work is breathtaking. Thanks very much for sharing this.

  3. I too am fascinated with V&A's %.14-1931. I've spent a tremendous amount of time hovering over photos, magnifying glass in hand, charting out the patterns. You can see some of them on my most recent piece:


    Thanks for the pix of the other sources. You have added to my pile of inspiration! -kbsalazar

  4. The collection by Antonietta Monzo Mennossi looks like Lagartera embroidery.Is it so?.
    Could you please tell the difference between volterra stitch and volterra backstitch?

  5. Anita, I don't know anything about Lagartera embroidery so I can't say.

    I hope to find the time to do another post on the differences in the Volterra Stitches, please be on the lookout out for it.

  6. Thank you Jeannie.I'll be looking out,hope you find time soon.