Embroidered Pictures

In the early 1800s, silk-embroidered pictures became a popular form of needlework in America, and young women could learn this challenging needlework technique at specialized academies. (In this case, needlework can be defined as embellishing cloth with designs stitched with a needle and thread.) In addition to patriotic scenes, subjects included classical, biblical, historical, and the ever-popular mourning pictures.

The death of George Washington gave impetus to a new fad, the mourning picture. It included an assortment of plinth, urn, mourners, and willow trees in a garden setting. They often show relatives or friends grieving before a monument dedicated to a lost loved one.

Canvas work, which today is known as needlepoint, was a form of embroidery that was also used to create pictures. It was done by young women in specialized academies as well as by adults. The earliest piece in the Textile Collection was done by Mary Williams in 1744 and the latest in 1935 by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt II.

There are approximately 50 embroidered pictures in the Textile Collection.

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.
Description
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 circular embroidery of Liberty, with spear and shield, also depicts a boy and girl looking toward a temple on a distant hilltop, while an eagle carrying a liberty cap and an olive branch flies overhead. Liberty's helmet and shield are worked in gold thread, and there is a painted eye in the center of the shield. She wears a light blue dress striped with violet. The bodice is decorated with a painted gilt face surrounded by gold spangles. The eagle is done in gold paint and there are 17 gold painted stars above it. A glass mat is reverse-painted in black with a 3/4" gold and black sawtooth band around a 17" circular opening. In the upper corners are gilt cornucopias, and in the lower corners, gilt conventionalized flowers. Above the opening are the words “HARRIET M. SALTER,” and below the opening, “LIBERTY GUIDED BY THE WISDOM OF '76.” The picture is stitched on a plain-weave ivory silk ground with silk thread. The stitches used are satin, long and short, French knot, outline, and couching.
The liberty cap is a conical-shaped cap that was worn as a symbol of freedom from tyranny through rebellion during the Revolutionary War. The eagle was a national emblem of victory through the blessings of God, and the eye in the center of the shield is a symbol of the eye of God keeping watch on humankind.
Harriet worked her silk picture c.1807 at the school of Mrs. Lydia Bull Royce in Hartford, Connecticut. Identifying characteristics of this school are the appliquéd garments on the figures and trees with peculiar star-shaped chenille-worked leaves. Harriet’s elder sister, Christian, also worked an embroidered picture at Mrs. Royce's school, c.1805. See page 213 in Girlhood Embroidery, American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework by Betty Ring (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).
Harriet Salter was the second of nine children born to John and Mary Williams Salter of Mansfield, Connecticut. Born on March 20, 1792, she married Heman Ely as his second wife on August 20, 1828. They moved from Tolland, Connecticut, to Elyria, Ohio, and had one son, Charles Arthur. Harriet died August 6, 1846.
Location
Currently not on view
maker
Salter, Harriet Maria
ID Number
TE.E388175
catalog number
E388175
accession number
182022
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.
Description

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.

In an oval with couched chenille outline, a woman is followed by a child. She carries an infant and a basket of bread, and she is giving bread to a barefoot boy in patched clothing. Framing the oval are wheat-heads, stems, leaves, lilies, and a garland of roses with bow-knots held by a raised ¬work eagle with spread wings. It is worked on an ivory silk ground. The stitches used are satin, long and short, outline, French knot, seed, and couching. The threads are silk, chenille, and metal.

The source of the design is "Charity," an image engraved by C. Stampa in London, 1802. Charity is one of the three theological virtues and is often represented as a female figure. The eagle was a national emblem of victory through the blessings of God, and is often found on other embroideries done at the Misses Patten’s school in Hartford, Connecticut. Misses Sarah, Ruth, and Mary Patten, along with their mother Ruth Wheelock Patten, operated a very successful girls’ school in Hartford, Connecticut from about 1785 to 1825.

Rachel Breck was born on July 22, 1792, to Joseph and Abigail Kingsley Breck of Northampton, Massachusetts. She married George Hooker on June 20, 1819, and they had eight children. Rachel died January 6, 1879, in Long Meadow, Massachusetts. She attended Deerfield Academy in 1806, but embroidered “Charity” at the Misses Patten’s school in Hartford, Connecticut.

Location
Currently not on view
date made
1810
maker
Breck, Rachel
ID Number
TE.E388172
catalog number
E388172
accession number
182022
A mourning picture embroidered by Susan Winn, about 1816, in Lititz, PA, and dedicated to her sister, Caroline, who died in 1806 as an infant. The circular embroidered picture is surrounded by a band of couched chenille decorated with gold spangles.
Description
A mourning picture embroidered by Susan Winn, about 1816, in Lititz, PA, and dedicated to her sister, Caroline, who died in 1806 as an infant. The circular embroidered picture is surrounded by a band of couched chenille decorated with gold spangles. It shows a woman, two girls, and a boy gathered around a cloth-draped urn on which is printed "rests in Peace." The woman and girls wear necklaces with pendants or plaques; the one worn by the girl on the right is lettered "SW." The boy holds a book on which is printed "Ble--ed are the Dead that die in the L---." Printed in blue ink on the front of the plinth is "Sacred to the Memory / of my dear Sister / CAROLINE WINN. / Sweet be Thy sepulchral rest / Sister dear! supremely blest! / May the ties which us unite / Be renew'd in realms of light! / Erected by Susan Winn." In a gilded wood frame, it measures 25" x 25", and its black mat is reverse-painted on the glass. The ground is twill-weave ivory silk, and the stitches are satin, long and short, stem, and couching.
Susan was born October 18, 1801, to John and Susanna Winn in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father was a flour merchant and entered Susan and Elizabeth in the Moravian boarding school, Linden Hall Seminary, in Lititz, Pennsylvania in 1815. Susan married John Reynolds on December 23, 1824.
Mourning designs appear in many 19th-century decorative arts, including needlework. Embroidered landscapes, usually worked by schoolgirls, often show relatives or friends grieving before a monument dedicated to a lost loved one. For more about this embroidery and other schoolgirl needlework, see Girlhood Embroidery, American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework by Betty Ring (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993) and The "Ornamental Branches," Needlework and Arts from the Lititz Moravian Girls' School Between 1800 and 1865 by Patricia T. Herr (Lancaster, PA: The Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County, 1996).
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1816
associated dates
1938
maker
Winn, Susan
ID Number
TE.T08266
catalog number
T08266
accession number
148588
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.
Description
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.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
TE.E388177
catalog number
E388177
accession number
182022
In the 20th century, women’s hobbies included embroidery techniques such as needlepoint and crewel.This rectangular canvas work depicts a "Sea Beast." Thirty-seven kneeling sea creatures with fishlike tails are on the shore, with a three-spired pavilion with sea horse banners on
Description
In the 20th century, women’s hobbies included embroidery techniques such as needlepoint and crewel.
This rectangular canvas work depicts a "Sea Beast." Thirty-seven kneeling sea creatures with fishlike tails are on the shore, with a three-spired pavilion with sea horse banners on each spire. There is a sea beast's head and two more sections of his serpent-like body rising from the waters. At the top upper right are the initials EBR 1935. The ground is cotton canvas. The threads are tapestry wool in shades of brown from beige to chocolate and the stitches are half cross and tent.
According to a family member, “Sea Beast” is based upon a painting made by a friend of Eleanor’s who was a medium.
Eleanor Butler Alexander was born on December 26, 1888, in New York City to Henry and Grace Green Alexander. She married Theodore Roosevelt II on June 20, 1910. They had four children: Grace, Theodore III, Cornelius V. S., and Quentin. She died on May 29, 1960, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1935
maker
Roosevelt, Eleanor Butler Alexander
ID Number
TE.T13347.01
accession number
252238
catalog number
T13347
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.
Description
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 rectangular embroidered picture contains an oval vignette within the rectangle of a woman feeding two chickens and four chicks. The woman wears a costume of the period, a long dress, with bands at the bottom of her skirt, somewhat in the Empire style. There is only blank fabric where the hands would be, no embroidery or paint. The original non-embroidered ground fabric in the upper half of the picture has been cut away and replaced at a later time with a newer plain weave silk satin fabric. Because the original face was painted on the discarded ground fabric, the face on the newer fabric is embroidered. It is stitched on an ivory silk satin ground fabric and backed with homespun linen. The threads are wool twist and silk twist. The stitches are French knots, encroaching satin, seed, split, satin, and straight.
This may be the Sara Ten Brock born to John I. and Fitze Miller Ten Brock on March 13, 1786, in Oxford, New York. She married Daniel Loomis (1783-1854) on April 15, 1801. They had ten children and Sara died March 23, 1864, in Oxford, New York.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
TE.T19363
catalog number
T19363
accession number
261195
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.
Description
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 expertly stitched large chenille work picture represents Lady Elizabeth Grey petitioning King Edward IV for the return of her husband’s land, following Edward’s victory over the Lancasterians in 1461, in which Lord Grey died. Lady Elizabeth is in a kneeling position, one knee on the ground, and her left arm around a small boy standing beside her. Her right hand is held by King Edward. On the left are two young men attendants, one holding a staff and dressed in the period of the event (1460s) as is King Edward. On the right are three women attendants dressed, as is Lady Elizabeth, in costumes of the period in which the embroidery was done, 1815. It is assumed the children’s mother is Lady Elizabeth Grey. Edward IV and Lady Elizabeth were later married and their sons were the "princes of the tower." Their daughter Elizabeth married Henry VII, unifying the Yorks and Lancasters and establishing the Tudor line. The ground is pale gold silk satin, and the threads are silk chenille, silk floss, and metal. The stitches are encroaching satin, laid chenille work, satin, and French knots.
The design of this embroidery is based on an engraving made by William Wynn Ryland, after a painting of this event by Angelica Kauffmann.
Elizabeth Cassel was born September 12, 1800, in Marietta, Pennsylvania, to Henry and Catherine Neff Cassel. She died unmarried in 1891. This piece of embroidery was considered very important to the family and Daniel Cassel in his book A Genealogical History of the Cassel Family in American (Norristown, Pennsylvania: Morgan R. Wills, 1896) mentions it along with the family genealogy. It was given to the National Museum of American History by a descendant. For more information about this embroidery see Piecework, March/April 2007, “Three American Schoolgirl Silk Embroideries from the Smithsonian” by Sheryl De Jong.
Location
Currently not on view
maker
Cassel, Elizabeth T.
ID Number
1991.0841.01
catalog number
1991.0841.01
accession number
1991.0841
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.
Description
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. The death of George Washington gave impetus to this new fad of the mourning picture. It included an assortment of plinth, urn, mourners, and trees in a garden setting.
This oval embroidered mourning picture on a rectangular silk ground, was created in memory of Mrs. Abigail Peebbles and Margaret Stevenson. It shows an urn on a plinth, with angel face and wings on each side of the urn and the inscription: “NOT / LOST BUT / GONE / BEFORE.” The inscription on the plinth is “To the memory / of / Abigail Peebbles / obit Feby 9t 1798 AE 26 / and / Margaret Stevenson / Obit July 24th 1797 AE 3." To the left of the urn is a large weeping willow tree whose top bends over and behind the urn. To the right of the urn is a female figure with a sunburst on the bodice of her flowing gown. The ground fabric is ivory silk satin, backed with fine linen. The stitches are encroaching satin, daisy loop, outline, straight, back, and long and short.
This embroidery includes the typical objects found in mourning embroideries: angels, weeping willow trees, and an urn on a plinth. The female figure may represent virtue and the sun on her bosom would indicate that virtue is cherished by the “natural dictates of conscience” according to Thomas Sheraton’s Cabinet Dictionary, 1803.
Meisa (Mary) Stevenson was born July 26, 1784, and on June 20, 1808, she married Kimball Washburn (1784-1825). Mary died October 5, 1829. Abigail and Margaret were probably Meisa Stevenson’s sisters and the embroidery was worked in Maine. The piece descended through the family of George Kneeland Washburn, one of their eight children.
Location
Currently not on view
maker
Stevenson, Meisa (Mary)
ID Number
TE.T11539
catalog number
T11539
accession number
219565
By the 1840s a new technique in the field of needlepoint, known as Berlin wool work, was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas.
Description
By the 1840s a new technique in the field of needlepoint, known as Berlin wool work, was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas. The patterns were painted by hand on “point paper,” which today would be called graph paper. Jane’s piece is an example of this technique.
This rectangular canvas work piece depicts the Ascension of Jesus. The biblical account is found in Acts 1: 9-11. Jesus is the main figure, upper center. He wears robes and there is a halo or nimbus around his head. Two men and one woman on the ground partially cover their eyes, as if blinded by the light. The faces, hands, and feet are done in petit point. The picture is worked on penelope canvas ground, 14/28 threads per inch, with Berlin wool in tent/half cross stitch. The colors of this piece are vivid. The frame is original to the picture; with reverse painted glass and gilded gesso molding on the frame itself. An inscription, "The Ascension J.E.L." is located in the bottom border.
Jane Elizabeth Loucks was born in 1835 to John and Desdemonia Marsh Loucks in Sharon, New York. She married Joseph Warren Hastings on February 16, 1871, in Manhattan. They moved to Illinois and had one daughter, Dena. See her other pieces; Mary Queen of Scots and The Offering of Isaac.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1850
associated date
1961
maker
Loucks, Jane Elizabeth
ID Number
TE.T11104.01
catalog number
T11104
accession number
238291
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.
Description
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. The death of George Washington gave impetus to this new fad of the mourning picture. It included an assortment of plinth, urn, mourners, and trees in a garden setting.
This oval embroidered memorial to George Washington features an urn-topped plinth. The urn is inscribed "GW" and the inscription on the plinth is "SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS WASHINGTON." To the left of this group are two weeping willow trees with crossed trunks. On the far right are two poplar trees beyond a small pond. Overhead is an angel with a trumpet and a laurel wreath. The willow tree is a symbol of mourning and sorrow, as well as a tree that drains the ground of water, thereby keeping the site dry. The angel, trumpet, and laurel wreath is an allegorical figure of "fame." The garden is a symbol of the Resurrection and everlasting hope. Designed by Samuel Folwell, it was probably worked at his wife Elizabeth's school for young ladies in Philadelphia. Folwell traveled down the East Coast painting portraits and may have drawn this design for girls to embroider in one of several southern cities; it was a popular design and many examples of this same embroidered composition still exist. In addition, the design was copied by other artists and stitchers, in somewhat less polished versions. This example appears to have been painted (heads, hands, etc.) by Folwell himself. This picture is worked on a plain-weave ivory silk ground with silk embroidery threads. The stitches used are long and short, chain, satin, stem, and French knot.
The embroiderer is unknown.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
TE.T19321
catalog number
T19321
accession number
256396
In the 20th century, women’s hobbies included embroidery techniques such as needlepoint and crewel.This very large and impressive embroidered wall hanging depicts “The Legend of Czar Saltan.” The czar sits in an elaborately decorated wooden chair.
Description
In the 20th century, women’s hobbies included embroidery techniques such as needlepoint and crewel.
This very large and impressive embroidered wall hanging depicts “The Legend of Czar Saltan.” The czar sits in an elaborately decorated wooden chair. He wears a jeweled crown on his silvery hair, and his long flowing silvery beard covers a part of an elaborately embroidered robe. This scene is on a balcony overlooking a walled village with onion-domed buildings, some with crosses on top, a lake with an island, and mountains beyond. Across the top of the picture are clouds, and the initials “e b r 1951-53" are embroidered near the right lower corner. The ground is linen twill and the threads are silk floss, wool, and metallic. The stitches are split, satin, long and short, outline, stem, laid and couched, wrapped loop, brick, seed, closed fly, French knots, chain, buttonhole, and herringbone. Glass and plastic jewels are also used.
LEGEND OF CZAR SALTAN
The legend is a well-known Russian fairy tale, and is the same story on which Pushkin based a dramatic poem used in turn by Rimsky-Korsakov for his Le Coq d'Or Suite. (The Golden Cockerel Suite.) In some versions, Czar Saltan is called King Dodon, but in all accounts he was given the Golden Cockerel by his Royal Astrologer. The Czar set the cockerel up in the palace as a weather vane. When danger approached, the cockerel warned the Czar by crowing. Apparently the cockerel does give advance warning of impending danger on several occasions, and eventually the Astrologer claims his payment. Some versions of the legend say that the Czar's wife was promised to the Astrologer, while others say that it was his daughter. In any case, the Czar refused to make good on his promise and when the astrologer demanded his fee, the Czar struck him with his scepter and killed him. At this point, the Golden Cockerel flew down from his perch and pierced the Czar's skull with his beak, killing him.
The wall hanging was worked on a roller embroidery frame built by Cornelius Van S. Roosevelt, son of Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt II. Cornelius drew the design on the linen in 1937. It took Mrs. Roosevelt many years to assemble all the materials and she didn't begin working on it until 1951. It was during the long interval between 1937 and 1951 that R. H. Macy & Co., in New York, helped run tests on the various metallic threads to see if they would tarnish. Over a period of many years, Mrs. Roosevelt determined which wools and silks were color fast, and these she used to stitch this piece and a companion one.
Eleanor Butler Alexander was born on December 26, 1888, to Henry and Grace Green Alexander in New York city. She married Theodore Roosevelt II (1887-1944) on 20 June 1910, and they had four children: Grace, Theodore III, Cornelius V. S. and Quentin. She died on May 29, 1960, at Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.
date made
1951-1953
maker
Roosevelt, Eleanor Butler Alexander
ID Number
1990.0656.01
catalog number
1990.0656.01
accession number
1990.0656
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas.
Description
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas. The patterns were painted by hand on “point paper,” which today would be called graph paper. Jane’s piece is an example of this technique.
This large rectangular canvas work piece depicts the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. The biblical account is found in Genesis 22:1-14. Abraham is standing clothed in flowing robes girded at the waist, with a dagger hanging at his left side. He gestures toward the sky with his left hand, and his right hand is over Isaac’s face. A lamb is in the bushes at the right side of the picture and smoke is coming from a brazier in the left corner. The picture is worked on penelope canvas ground, 9/18 threads per inch, with Berlin wool in cross stitch. The faces, hands, and feet are done in petit point.
Jane Elizabeth Loucks was born in 1835 to John and Desdemonia Marsh Loucks in Sharon, New York. She married Joseph Warren Hastings on February 16, 1871, in Manhattan, New York. They moved to Illinois and had one daughter, Dena. See her other pieces; Mary Queen of Scots and The Ascension of Jesus.
Location
Currently not on view
associated date
1961
maker
Loucks, Jane Elizabeth
ID Number
TE.T11105.01
catalog number
T11105
accession number
238291
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas.
Description
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas. The patterns were painted by hand on “point paper,” which today would be called graph paper. Some of the patterns were copies of famous paintings.
This rectangular Berlin wool work piece depicts Faith, Hope, and Charity. The three large seated female figures in the center of the work. The one on the left is holding a babe, the one in the center holds a chalice and a book, and the one on the right holds a flower. Three small children are in the center foreground, one holding a parasol and another with a dog. At the bottom is stitched: “EMMA FRANCES FEATHER – 1855.” It is embroidered on cotton canvas that has a warp of 28/in and weft of 24/in. The thread is worsted wool and the stitches are cross and half cross.
Faith, Hope, and Charity are three theological virtues. The woman on the left represents Charity, the woman in the center, Faith, and the woman on the right, Hope. The opening flower she is holding is a symbol for hope. The more traditional symbol for hope is an anchor.
Emma Frances Feather was born on June 27, 1840, in Reading, Pennsylvania, to James Augustus and Mary Ann Fisher Feather. She married Levi G. Coleman on February 23, 1897. She died January 31, 1906. In the Reading, Pennsylvania, directories, she is listed as a vestmaker and Levi is listed as a merchant tailor.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1855
maker
Feather, Emma Frances
ID Number
TE.T15608
catalog number
T15608
accession number
298622
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.
Description
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 rectangular piece features an oval picture entitled, "Plenty." A female figure, dressed in a Federal period gown, carries an upright cornucopia filled with flowers, cradled in her left arm and hand. Her right hand displays a bouquet of flowers. A reverse-painted black glass mat displays the word "Plenty” in a scroll at the bottom. In another scroll are the words "Done by Sally Baxter, Jan 1, 1802." The picture is worked on an ivory silk satin ground fabric with silk thread. The stitches used are encroaching satin, straight, French knots, laid, back, and split.
A cornucopia is defined as a horn of plenty and thus the title “Plenty.”
Sally Baxter was born March 26, 1789, to Taylor and Sarah Crowell Baxter of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. She married Obadiah Abbey on February 27, 1808. He died in 1822 and she died on February 5, 1872.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1802
maker
Baxter, Sally
ID Number
TE.E392913
catalog number
E392913
accession number
214358
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.
Description
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 pastoral scene shows a young man seated under a tree with a horn slung over his shoulder, and holding a piece of bread (?). Before him stands a young woman carrying a sack, at which a dog is sniffing. The oval scene is surrounded by a single line of stem stitch, 1/4" beyond the picture. The border is embroidered with an undulating ribbon tied in a bow at the lower edge and entwined with sprays of roses, lilies, morning glories, carnations, daisies, and other flowers. At the lower edge of the oval embroidery, printed in ink, is the inscription: "MARGARET McKAY M. E. & A. SKETCHLEY's BOARDING SCHOOL HAERLEM LANE." The picture is worked on a twill-weave ivory silk ground and the stitches used are satin, long and short, stem, straight, chain, and French knot.
The Sketchley’s school continued at Haerlem Lane in Poughkeepise, NY from 1801 until 1804. The name “M. E. & A. Sketchley” and the address or town, were usually worked on the silk embroideries of their students. The Sketchleys also taught in North Carolina and Virginia. The embroideries include elegant scenes in the neoclassical taste, but lack any distinct characteristics that would help identify unsigned pieces.
Margaret McKay is probably the sister of Capt. George Knox McKay (1791-1814). Her embroidery descended in his family until it was given to the National Museum of American History.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1806-1809
maker
McKay, Margaret
ID Number
1987.0785.01
catalog number
1987.0785.01
accession number
1987.0785
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.
Description
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.
A Roman lady, with her three children, is depicted with a seated Roman matron holding a box of jewels. The standing lady holds the hand of the youngest child, who is admiring a brooch, and gestures toward her other two children - a boy carrying a scroll on which the letters “ABC” are visible, and a slightly older girl carrying a slate. The heads, arms, legs, and feet of the figures, the background sky, and the bushes are painted. Below the picture, embroidered in black silk stem stitch, is the inscription, "THESE ARE MY JEWELS." It has a glass mat reverse-painted white with a 5/8" gold, black, and violet geometric band. At the lower edge, in gold are the words, "WROUGHT by LYDIA BOWLES AUSTIN at MRS. SAUNDERS & MISS BEACH'S ACADEMY." The picture is worked on a plain-weave ivory silk ground with silk embroidery threads and is lined with linen. The stitches are satin, split, outline, and chain.
The title of the embroidery is taken from a Roman legend which tells of Cornelia, with her children, visiting a wealthy Roman lady who proudly displays her collection of jewelry and then asks to see Cornelia's jewelry. To this Cornelia replies "These are my jewels," indicating her children. The picture is a copy of an engraving by Bartolozzi, entitled "Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi" which was published in London in 1788, copied from a painting by Angelica Kauffmann.
In 1803 Judith Foster Saunders and Clementina Beach moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, and started a school for young ladies. They used the services of John Doggett for much of the framing of the needlework pieces. The framing included glass mats that had the name of the embroiderer as well as the name of the school, which has made it easy to identify pieces from their school.
Lydia Bowles Austin, daughter of Joseph and Lydia Bowles Austin of Boston, Massachusetts was born in 1792 and died unmarried in Boston on July 18, 1824. Her father was a baker.
Location
Currently not on view
maker
Austin, Lydia Bowles
ID Number
1996.0125.01
catalog number
1996.0125.01
accession number
1996.0125
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas.
Description
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas. The patterns were painted by hand on “point paper,” which today would be called graph paper. Some of the patterns were copies of famous paintings.
This large canvas work picture came in an elaborate glazed gold frame with a mat of black paint and gold leaf on the inside of the glass. The inscription across the bottom is “Eliza Gleason, Joseph Interpreting the Dream of King Pharaoh January 1st, 1870.” The original frame was removed since it needed repair, and the work was reframed for exhibit from 1976 to 1981. The ground is cotton canvas and the threads are wool and silk.
According to the biblical story, Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret for him. His chief cupbearer then remembered that Joseph had interpreted a dream for him when he was in prison two years earlier. So, Joseph was “brought from the dungeon” and shaved and changed his clothes. He then came before Pharaoh and told him that his dream meant there would be seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of famine. Joseph recommended that “a discerning and wise man” be put in charge and that food should be collected in the good years and stored for use during the famine. This seemed like a good idea to Pharaoh and Joseph ended up with the job (Genesis 41).
Eliza Gleason was born in February 1839, in Connecticut. She married Robert Gleason ca. 1864 in Brooklyn, New York. She stitched this after she was married. In the 1870 Kings County, New York, census, she has an eight year old and a baby.
date made
1870
maker
Gleason, Eliza
ID Number
TE.T17202.01
accession number
316362
catalog number
T17202
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.
Description
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. The death of George Washington gave impetus to this new fad of the mourning picture. It included an assortment of plinth, urn, mourners, and trees in a garden setting.
This square embroidered picture depicts a young girl weeping, kneeling beside a plinth topped by an urn beneath a weeping willow tree. There was once an inscription glued on the plinth, but it is now missing from the oval. The girl is dressed in an ivory and pale gold Empire style dress with lacy edging around the square neck. The embroidered weeping figure, plinth, chenille tree and chenille ground are surrounded by painted water. A gold inscription on a black mat at the bottom says, “Wrought by Sophia W. Childs, Charleston, 1827.” It is stitched on a plain weave ivory silk ground with silk floss and chenille. The stitches are satin, long and short, laid, and straight.
This mourning embroidery contains the usual motifs of a plinth with an urn, weeping willow trees and a young lady mourning. The Regency style dress would have been the dress of the period and helps to date the picture.
Sophia Wyman Childs married Jeremiah Holmes Kimball (1802-1849) of Woburn, Massachusetts, on February 24, 1828. She died sometime before November 1832, when Jeremiah wed Jerusha Ann Richardson.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1827
associated date
1964-12
maker
Childs, Sophia Wyman
ID Number
TE.T19319
accession number
256396
catalog number
T19319
This small rectangular piece has a “printwork” embroidered picture of a rural scene in an oval shape. It could be English or American, done in the early 19th century. A stately home, a woman and child, three deer, and a dog are pictured.
Description
This small rectangular piece has a “printwork” embroidered picture of a rural scene in an oval shape. It could be English or American, done in the early 19th century. A stately home, a woman and child, three deer, and a dog are pictured. One large tree, and smaller trees in the background, can be seen. The ground is ivory silk satin backed with linen and the threads are silk. The stitches are back, seed, and straight.
“Printwork” is embroidery done in very small black stitches, duplicating an engraving.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
TE.E392922
catalog number
E392922
accession number
214358
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.
Description
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.
In an oval with a 1/4" silver wire outline is Joseph, with his dog, asleep under a tree near a stream. To the right are wheat-sheaves in a field, three buildings, and three palm trees, with mountains in the distance. In the foreground are low-growing plants, some of them surrounded by areas of seed-stitching characteristic of embroidery done at Abby Wright's school in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The top third of the border is embroidered with a garland of roses and buds. The rest of the border is painted with a vine bearing sweet peas, bleeding hearts, lilies, carnations, and other flowers. The entire ground of the border is painted (watercolor) in a cream color. The picture is embroidered on a white silk ground, and the stitches used are satin, seed, straight, outline, French knot, and couching.
The subject of this embroidery is a story from the Bible found in Genesis 37 and 42. Joseph had a dream that he and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain out in the field. Suddenly his sheaf rose and stood upright, while his brothers’ sheaves gathered around his and bowed down to it. His brothers were very angry with him and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. Joseph’s dream did come true when later in life he became governor of Egypt. A famine occurred in Canaan and his father Jacob had heard that they had grain in Egypt and sent his brothers to Egypt to buy food. When they got to Egypt they bowed down to Joseph, not realizing he was their brother.
This embroidery was not done in South Hadley at Abby Wright’s school, but in Claremont, New Hampshire, with the teacher Sophia Goodrich. Sophia was a half sister to Abby Wright and attended Abby’s school in South Hadley, Massachusetts in 1804. In November 1809, she returned to take over the school.
Lucy Dexter was born on February 4, 1796, to David and Parnel Strobridge Dexter in Claremont, New Hampshire. Lucy died unmarried on February 17, 1821. (See Almira Dexter’s embroidery.) For more information about this embroidery see Piecework, March/April 2007, “Three American Schoolgirl Silk Embroideries from the Smithsonian” by Sheryl De Jong.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1809
sister of maker
Dexter, Almira
maker
Dexter, Lucy
ID Number
TE.T261195.01
catalog number
T261195.01
accession number
261195
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.
Description
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. The death of George Washington gave impetus to this new fad of the mourning picture. The genre included an assortment of plinths, urn, mourners, and trees in a garden setting.
This mourning embroidery by Mary Gorham was dedicated to her father, Capt. Isaac Gorham. The pastoral image shows a woman approaching an urn on a plinth that rests beneath a three-branched weeping willow. The large gold urn, outlined in brown and garlanded with flowers, carries on its marble-simulated silk embroidered pedestal the inked inscription: "Cap.t Isaac / Gorham born / Feb.y 15 . 1747 . died / Aug.t. 13. 1795. aged / 48." The young woman, in a white Regency costume with a brown bow, stands to the right of the urn. Her bonnet is completed in black ink; her features and curls are inked in brown; one arm is outlined in graphite, and the other is barely visible behind a willow branch. The picture is in the original gold leaf frame, and the glass is reverse-painted in black, with gold leaf motifs in each corner and a 1/4" gold rim around the oval mourning picture with the maker's name, "M. GORHAM," at the bottom. It is stitched on a plain weave ivory silk ground with silk embroidery threads. The stitches are seed, lazy daisy, straight, satin, and outline.
This example includes the typical objects found in mourning embroideries: a garden, weeping willow trees, a woman in mourning, and an urn on a plinth. The willow tree is a symbol of mourning and sorrow as well as a tree that drains the ground of water, thereby keeping the site dry. Capt. Isaac Gorham was a mariner and he died at sea.
Mary Gorham was born December 10, 1791, to Isaac and Sarah Thomas Gorham in Bristol, Rhode Island. She married Rev. John P. K. Henshaw(1792-1852) on July 19, 1814. They had eleven children: John Kewley (1815-1843), Alexander (1817-1854), Mary Gorham (1819-1888), William Milnor (1820-1850), Rev. Daniel (1822-1908), Charles Henry (1825-1825), Elizabeth W. (1826-1826), I. Gorham (1828-1828), Charles Henry (1830-1910), Richmond (1833-1890), and Sarah (1831-1832). Mary died September 26, 1881, in Bristol, Rhode Island. See her older sister Jemina Gorham’s sampler.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1805
maker
Gorham, Mary
Gorham, Mary
ID Number
2007.0156.01
accession number
2007.0156
catalog number
2007.0156.01
Canvas work, now called needlepoint, was also taught in schools or learned at home.
Description
Canvas work, now called needlepoint, was also taught in schools or learned at home. Mary comes from a Connecticut family that has many surviving pieces of needlework, indicating she may have stitched this piece at home with help from a relative.
This canvas work picture includes five houses and thirty-eight people, using wool and metallic embroidery threads. On the bottom is the inscription, "THE QUEEN OF SHEBA ADMIRING THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON." Solomon and Sheba are centered under a canopied tent decorated with metal threads. At the center along the top edge is the inscription "MARY WILLIAMS 1744," the name worked in metal thread. Although the primary subject is biblical, all the figures are dressed in 18th-century clothing. All of the houses have shingled roofs, pediment windows, and doors on their lower stories.
The biblical story is found in I Kings 10. The Queen of Sheba heard that Solomon, King of Israel, was rich, wise, and religious. She came to Jerusalem to test him with some very hard questions. King Solomon answered all her questions and when she saw his palace and his food, etc. she said “not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” I Kings 10:7.
Mary Williams was born to Rev. Solomon and Mary Porter Williams on February 11, 1733, in Lebanon, Connecticut. She married Richard Salter on June 17, 1767, as his second wife. They had three children, Abigail, who died May 31, 1768, age 3 days; a second daughter, also named Abigail, who died May 18, 1770, age 1 mo.; and Elizabeth, who died July 21, 1771, age 3 wks. Mary died November 16, 1793, in Mansfield, Connecticut.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1744
maker
Williams, Mary
ID Number
TE.E388179
catalog number
E388179
accession number
182022
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.
Description
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 rectangular embroidered picture portrays a young man and woman and a dog in a pastoral scene with a floral wreath border around all the edges. The man and woman are in Regency style clothing. The faces, dark curly hair, arms, and hands are painted, as is the sky background. The floral border is elaborate, with much detail. The glass mat, which has been removed, has a reverse one-inch band painted black with a 1/4" gold band around the edges. In the lower band is the name SOPHIA HARSEN. The ground is ivory sheer cotton fabric, sewn to a silk satin after it was embroidered. The thread is silk floss and chenille and the stitches are laid, straight, and satin
There is a Sophia Harsen born July 10, 1815, in New York City, New York. Further research is needed to find other silk embroidered pictures of this style worked with a provenance of New York City to substantiate this attribution.
Location
Currently not on view
ID Number
1989.0343.01
catalog number
1989.0343.01
accession number
1989.0343
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.
Description
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 oval picture of Liberty is a watercolor on silk. (Not embroidered.) The only needlework involved was the attaching of the purl and spangles. Liberty's dress and hairdo are Empire style. In her right hand is a staff on which flies the American flag, with 18 stripes, nine blue and nine white and sixteen stars. A hat-like object atop of the flag staff possibly represents the “liberty cap.” In her left hand Liberty holds a cornucopia upside down with pears, cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, and melons spilling out. To the left in the background is the town of South Hadley, Massachusetts, with churches, houses, and trees. In the right background are clouds and mountains that may be symbolic of the vastness of the country. The oval picture of Liberty is framed by two rows of purl with two rows of spangles in between. The outer border is of flowers, vines, and ribbon bows. An outside border is the same purl and spangles as the inner border, between which is the flower border. It is worked on ivory silk faille.
A cap was awarded to ancient Roman freed slaves and it became the symbol of liberty to Americans during the Revolutionary War period. The upended cornucopia means prosperity, or in America, the land of plenty. The depiction of the town is found on other embroideries stitched at Abby Wright’s school in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca. 1800
ID Number
TE.T19322
catalog number
T19322
accession number
256396

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