Prison Scene

<< >>
After a young lady learned to embroider a sampler, she might attend a female academy to make a silk embroidered picture. This was a more challenging technique that became popular in the early 1800s. Subjects included classical, biblical, and historical scenes, as well as mourning pictures.
This embroidered picture depicts a prison scene. The central figure is a uniformed official. He wears a tricorn hat, knee britches, a short blue coat with buttons that seem to have been made by grouping several tiny metal beads, a jabot on his shirt, knee stockings, and shoes. He appears to be receiving a small bag, possibly of money, in his right hand from the woman in the scene. His left hand is held by a girl on her knees, showing gratitude, kissing his hand. She has long wavy hair and a short sleeved belted gown of the period, with a coiled metal wire embellishment at the hem. Four figures are to the left of the officer: a woman supporting an injured man, who is a prisoner, sitting, and two girls hovering. The man has a bandage around his head. He is well dressed in clothes of the period, with a large shawl around his lap and legs. His chains are broken, indicating his release. It appears to be a mother/wife and children ransoming their husband/father from the prison. A jailor, half hidden, holds a ring of keys and looks disapprovingly from the doorway. The ground fabric is silk satin. The thread is silk floss and there is coiled metal wire and beads. The stitches are satin, encroaching satin, straight, French knots, elongated chain, and laid.
This piece could be English or American. Nothing is known about whom the prisoner might be or who embroidered it.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
silk (ground material)
silk (thread material)
overall: 17 7/8 in x 26 1/2 in; 45.4025 cm x 67.31 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Embroidered Pictures
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object