Or Nue

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Or Nue (or shaded gold) is a form of embroidery using couching where different colored silk threads are stitched over the metallic base of gold threads to form patterns or designs, often figures or narrative scenes. The finished product is a definite pattern, deliberately stitched so that the metal shows through. The entire design, background and foreground, is stitched, using small upright stitches. This style is a form of Goldwork.


The technique was worked particularly in Belgium, France and the Netherlands in the Middle Ages. Embroiderers in Italy and Flanders developed this technique to an impressive level of sophistication.

Materials Used

  • Gold-covered thread
  • silk couching thread

Stitches and Techniques

A basic couching stitch was used. Shading was achieved by the spacing of the silk couching thread. The closer together the threads are, the denser or stronger the colour. Spacing the threads further apart gives a softer colour, it also allows more of the base gold thread to show through.


This style of embroidery was particular popular for depicting narrative or figural scenes. Some of the greatest examples of this style involve figures, often taken from religious settings.

Extant Pieces


Sources for Further Information

  • "The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750" by Donald King and Santina Levey, Canopy Books/Abbeville Press 1993