Embroidered Picture (England), 17th century
This is a Embroidered picture. It is dated 17th century and we acquired it in 1903. Its medium is silk, silk wrapped wire, mica and its technique is raised embroidery on silk 8-harness satin weave with stitches including satin, stem, brick, knot and cross with couching and detached looping. It is a part of the Textiles department.
In the 17th-century, amateur embroiderers or their teachers could commission custom designs from pattern drawers. In Thomas Heywood's 1607 play, “The Faire Maide of the Exchange,” a character known as the 'Drawer' takes detailed instruction for a handkerchief:
In one corner of the same, place wanton love,
Drawing his bow shooting an amorous dart,
Opposite him an arrow in a heart,
In a third corner, picture forth disdaine
A cruel fate unto a loving vaine:
In the fourth draw a springing Laurel-tree,
Circled about with a ring of poesie: and thus it is:
Love wounds the heart, and conquers fell disdayne.
It would certainly take a great deal of time for any designer to incorporate these varied requests into a cohesive decorative effect. More efficient, and therefore more profitable, would be working from a library of motifs that could be mixed to produce endlessly similar yet different designs. In the second half of the 17th century, a fad developed for embroidered pictures, mirror surrounds and valuables cabinets, all highly similar to this piece. The motifs repeat, but their placement and size changes, indicating a merchant who has found a winning 'formula,' as well as a channel to sell the designs.
This object was
Sarah Cooper Hewitt.
It is credited
Gift of Sarah Cooper Hewitt.
Its dimensions are
H x W: 36.8 x 44.8 cm (14 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.)
Cite this object as
Embroidered Picture (England), 17th century; silk, silk wrapped wire, mica; H x W: 36.8 x 44.8 cm (14 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.); Gift of Sarah Cooper Hewitt; 1903-11-28