Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is a major artwork by the acclaimed British artist Cornelia Parker that celebrates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. Fabricated by many hands, it replicates in stitch the entire Wikipedia article on Magna Carta as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary. The embroidery is made up of 87 sections and is almost 13 metres long.
The work was commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in partnership with the British Library. The Embroiderers' Guild were invited to take part along with Fine Cell Work, Hand & Lock and the Royal School of Needlework. The commission was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by the John Fell OUP Research Fund.
Contributions to the artwork have also been made by others who, at Cornelia Parker's invitation, have embroidered dedicated words and phrases - judges, QCs, barristers, solicitors, campaigners for civil liberties, civil rights, political rights and human rights, activists, advocates, clerics, diplomats, members of parliament, barons and baronesses, (hereditary and life peers), entrepreneurs, psychoanalysts, curators, artists architects, filmmakers, designers, composers, musicians, restaurateurs, writers, playwrights, publishers, editors, journalists, commentators, broadcasters, librarians, academics, students and young people.
The bulk of the text was stitched by prisoners under the supervision of Fine Cell Work and the Royal School of Needlework played a key role by sewing together the individual sections, creating the hand-made blue cord which runs parallel to the Wikipedia side bar and embroidering the goldwork crown on the Monarchy Panel.
One of our members, Lynda Harrison of Salisbury Branch, went to visit the British Library and had this to say:
"I went to the British Library to see Cornelia Parker's panel ... wow - it really is amazing and even more so when one stops to think about the number of people who have had a hand in its preparation. - stitchers as well as those who compiled the Wiki page. And the panels done by a representative of the Guild from each Region are stunning. Quite a wonderful piece".
A member from each Region of the Embroiderers' Guild was involved in stitching the detailed pictures, emblems and logos that punctuate the text. We are very pleased to show you images of their fine work below.
|Pope Innocent III stitched by Anthea Godfrey (Eastern Region)|
|1225 Magna Carta issued by Henry III stitched by Ann Carrick and Elaine Dunn (North East Region)|
|1297 copy of Magna Carta owned by the Australian Government and on display in the Members' Hall of Parliament House Canberra stitched by Cathy Johnson (North West Region)|
|Page from a 14th Century manuscription stitched by Jane Drummond (East Midlands Region)|
|King John signs Magna Carta stitched by Janet Payne (Eastern Region|
|Detail of one of only four surviving 1215 Magna Carta documents held by the British Library, stitched by Pam Keeling (East Midlands Region)|
|Magna Carta Place in Canberra stitched by Jill Hazell (South West Region)|
|Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede stitched by Sian Kibblewhite (West Midlands)|
|Detail of the inscription on the Magna Carta Memorial stitched by Pippa Foulds (Yorkshire and the Humber Region)|
|Jurist Edward Coke stitched by Shirley Smith and Zita Szabo (Yorkshire and the Humber Region)|
|Wikimedia, Wikiquote, Wikisource and MediaWiki panels stitched by Lorna Pound (West Midlands Region).|
|Wikipedia Side bar stitched by Christine Tebbitt, (South East Region)|
Wikipedia side bar languages stitch by Meriel Tilling (Scottish Region) (image is part of the whole embroidery)
Meriel wrote this about her experience on working on the Magna Carta (An Embroidery) project:
"It was worked in Sylko Perle as was sent to me. I was puzzled for a while as tot he relevance of the name on the list of thirty two countries as some appeared to be Russian or Chinese or whatever. In the event I assumed (and Anthea Godfrey confirmed) that they were the languages into which the Charter had been translated....rather strange!
I worked between 16th September 2014 when I received my pack and 23rd October when I despatched it. I worked hand fas as I was also involved in two of the Scottish Diaspora panels which had to be finished in March 2015.
It was a bit fiddly in what seemed to me a rather thick thread but it was quite satisfactory and I was glad to have been involved!"