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This article essay examines the liturgical embroideries associated with the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and her sister Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna. It suggests that the sisters’ needlework for sacred purposes was invested with a significance not seen in elite Russian society since the late seventeenth century. At a time when the arts of Orthodoxy were undergoing a state-sponsored renaissance, who was better suited to lead the resurgence of liturgical embroidery than the wife and sister-in-law of the Emperor, the last in a long line of royal women seeking to assert their piety and their power through traditional women’s work? In the closing years of the empire, to make and to donate sacred textiles was a way to emulate ancestral women, while providing modern women with examples of piety, industriousness, and patriotism.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Experiment, volume 22, in 2016 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1163/2211730X-12341277



Available for download on Thursday, November 29, 2018