Mourning Embroidery

Mourning Embroidery

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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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
embroidered picture
date made
associated date
Childs, Sophia Wyman
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston, Charlestown
Physical Description
plain weave silk ground (overall material)
silk floss and chenille (overall material)
watercolor (overall material)
pencil (overall material)
ivory ground (overall color)
golds (overall color)
greens (overall color)
brown (overall color)
red watercolor (overall color)
mourning picture (overall style)
satin, long and short, laid, straight (stitches production method or technique)
embroidery (overall production method/technique)
average spatial: 16 7/8 in x 16 7/8 in; 42.8625 cm x 42.8625 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Eleanor and Mabel Van Alstyne
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Embroidered Pictures
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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