Copy of a Lost Embroidered Opus Anglicanum Cope of 1316-1334

WAG 6135


The English-embroidered cope may be the one recorded in a 1361 inventory of St Peter's, Rome, as having been a gift to the French Pope John XX11 (reigned 1316-34). The Pope is known to have received several embroidered copes from England as presents, 2 from Edward II and his French wife Queen Isabella in 1317 (the latter now in Pienza), and single copes from Archbishop Reynolds of Canterbury in 1322 and John Hotham, the Bishop of Ely in 1333. The cope represented in the Walker's drawing was altered in Italy around 1600 (possibly 1626, the ?date added below the Nativity scene on the outermost semicrcle) by the addition of a new main orphrey band. The original part of the cope represented in the drawing is very close to the 1361 inventory and to the design of the Pienza Cope, now in the Museo Diocesano, Pienza, Tuscany, which is also recorded there. The cope was no longer in St Peter's by 1735. Both Pietro Santi Bartoli and his son Francesco (who worked for John Talman producing copy drawings for the latter's 'paper museum') had access to the Vatican's Secret Sacristy, where precious papal tiaras, mitres and liturgical vestments were stored. For further information see Cristiano Giometti's essay 'John Talman and the Roman Art World' in 'John Talman an early eighteenth-century Connoisseur' edited Cinzia Maria Sicca, (Yale Center for British Art, 2008) pp. 163-164 and Professor Cinzia Maria Sicca's online catalogue of John Talman's collection at For a watercolour drawing of 1722 by the Italian artist Giuseppe Grisoni (1692-1769) showing an idealised portrait of a Pope wearing what appears to be the cope represented in WAG 6135 see British Museum Prints & Drawings BM, 1893, 0411.10.1 Professor Paul Binski dates the cope to about 1310-1320 in an email of 12 September 2013 to the Walker and in an email of 5 February 2014 states that the nearest links as to the origins of the original embroidered cope are London-Norwich work. Without any marks of ownership shown on the drawing it is impossible to tell who the original donor might have been to Pope John XXII. Binski will publish an illustration of WAG 6135 in his forthcoming book on the English Decorated Gothic Style in October 2014, 'Gothic Art' (Yale University Press)'.