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The Mother's Union Banner

Processional banner to the right of the chancel window.

 

The Mothers' Union banner is an embroidered picture of a large standing figure of the Virgin carrying the Infant Jesus and was embroidered by Percy Sheldrick and given to St Mary's Church in honour of his mother during the mid nineteen fifties. The Virgin Mary is standing below a cusped arch on a small hillock scattered with flowers and apples and at Her feet there is a 'Pelican in her piety'1. A narrow border of architectural design runs down each long side and across the bottom. The letters 'M' and 'U' are embroidered in yellow Gothic script to the left and right just above the Virgin's head.

The banner is mainly worked in tent stitch in shades of pink, blue, green, yellow, grey and beige wools. The background to the Virgin and Child is in shades of pink with a repeating motif in beige and represents a richly woven brocade fabric. The Virgin herself is wearing a robe in shades of pink with a blue cloak and white head-dress. She is also wearing a crown which is of couched gold thread laid vertically. The face and hands of the Virgin and the face and exposed body parts of the Infant are depicted using the technique of pricking the ground2 to give finer detail.

The Infant Jesus is wearing a white loin cloth and both the Virgin and Infant have a nimbus. These are in laid work of gold jap couched in red and gold-coloured threads to form a brick pattern. The whole banner is lined with royal blue cotton. The style of the gold work is typical of the fifteenth century and the Bruges silks used in the central panel are very fine.

1 'Pelican in her piety' - the image of a mother pelican, plucking at her breast to provide blood to feed her young has been used for over 700 years in heraldry and by the Christian Church. It symbolizes self sacrifice and is sometimes described as an allegorical reference to Christ in both his sacrificial love and resurrection.

2 'pricking the ground' - a technique to make regular extra holes in the canvas so that finer stitches can be used than by using the holes provided by the canvas for the rest of the embroidery.

Acknowledgement: Details of embroideries kindly provided by the Hertfordshire Branch of the
National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).