The Portuguese were amongst the first to trade in the Far East and in addition to the valuable spices they brought home, they brought home sumptious floral silks from China and India. If you look at the two embroidered bedspreads - colchas - stitched in the city famous for the work - Castelo Branco - you will see a very strong resemblance to English crewel work as shown beautifully on the Norwich school samplers. In fact the influence of these Far Eastern imports leaves a strong and lasting impression all along the maritime coasts of western Europe which can be seen in textiles from Portugal, to the East coast of England, the Netherlands, and particularly the Northern Netherlands at Hinderlopen. The influence was also carried up the Rhone valley from the Mediterranean port of Marseilles to the vast market of Beaucaire and from there to Mulhouse, which lay outside of French jurisdiction ruling illegal, for a time, the import of these well-loved and greatly desired fabrics. The first colchas above is Lot 31 in the 2 November Augusta Auction to be held in New York City. It has an estimate of $300-$500 and is worked on a natural linen ground employing couched silk embroidery in long satin stitch, worked in cream, pale gold, shades of green and blue.
A male figure is depicted in 2 separate scenes - in the first playing fiddle while near by dog holds prey in its mouth and in the next following over-size turkey while a second man kneels, pointing a shotgun at the turkey.
Both scenes are surrounded by stylized flowers and curving boughs. It measures 47" x 50". Much embroidery worn away.
The second colchas is lot 23 with an estimate of $400-$700. Worked on natural linen ground, couched silk embroidery has been employed in long satin stitch in cream, pale gold, shades of green and blue.
Here are embroidered figures in two separate scenes surrounded by stylized flowers and curving boughs. The first scene is of a man, and woman holding an animal while a second man kneels behind the first aiming a shotgun. The colchas is bordered with short gold fringes and measures 60" x 90". Embroidery is very worn and there are many scattered small holes and repairs. For more details click here.
And here you can see a modern practioner of Castelo Branco at work.