The origin of two of Sir Ninian Comper’s textile designs

The Gothic revival designer Sir Ninian Comper (1864-1960) was a master at creating richly decorated ecclesiastical furniture and interiors. Many of the elements in his design work, notably his textiles, were derived from medieval sources, mostly North European panel paintings. Here are a couple of examples:

This is Rogier Van der Weyden’s exhumation of St Hubert, 1437-40, in the National Gallery:

Comper used the figure on the far right of this painting, in the red and gold coat, as the source for his ‘St Hubert’ brocatelle:

Another Van der Weyden panel, the Annunciation in the St Columba altarpiece of c.1455, now in Munich, was the source for another pattern.

The pattern of the bed hanging behind Our Lady’s head, provided the pattern for his ‘Van de Weyden’textile:

Incidentally both of these textiles are still available commercially from Watts and Co.
For more of Comper’s textiles it’s worth having a look in the Comper Flickr pool:

4 thoughts on “The origin of two of Sir Ninian Comper’s textile designs

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  1. It’s a happy thing to have these re-issued, however, the St Hubert does not come in proper Comper colors – only the “old gold” is close to the original. Perhaps in time they’ll improve the shades.I am happy to find your blog – most interesting and I shall bookmark it.


  2. Thank you. Yes that is the problem isn’t it with textiles these days. The range of colour ways seems to be ever decreasing. Try finding a decent dark blue for example.


  3. The colours in some of the revivals of Comper’s textiles would have made his toes curl. These, and other modifications of Bodley and Garner’s, G. G. Scott Jnr’s and Temple Moore’s colours, are due to a combination of ignorance and commercial enterprise. It is thought that the original colours won’t sell. If they are used in restorations of Comper’s embroidery (eg re-mounting) the effects will be disastrous and if people innocently buy them in order to attain a Comperian effect they will be disappointed. Comper’s work will be misrepresented and his principles, based on purity and clarity of colour obtained by Chinese dyes, will not only be compromised but undermined.


  4. I am and have been since my late teens a great fan of Comper and his work, but have always found it very amusing that he became so upset with those who copied what he had done since so much of his best work was a creative reworking of medieval originals.But was that not also the medieval way. Some original artist set the pattern and it was followed by others, some quite good and others less so. I am simply grateful for what he did but wish that later Anglo-papalists would not ruin the medieval purity of his altars by the clutter of tabernacles and too many candlesticks. They destroy the design.


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