Joseph Interpreting the Dream of King Pharaoh

Joseph Interpreting the Dream of King Pharaoh

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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.
Object Name
embroidery, picture
date made
Gleason, Eliza
place made
United States: New York, Kings county
Physical Description
cotton (ground material)
silk (thread material)
wool (thread material)
overall: 47 in x 39 in; 119.38 cm x 99.06 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Gail Sullivan
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Embroidered Pictures
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Wow, loved reading the history of this tapestry, I have the same one in a very elaborate gold frame that an Aunt stitched, my Grandad told me it took her a lifetime to create, the story goes that it went to auction when she died & my Grandad bought it back into the family which he then left to me in his Will. I live in the UK & have searched for years to find something out about the tapestry, I was told it was a tapestry that came in kit form & was a popular pass time in its day, I was also told the frame it’s in is unlikely to be an original.. this information is really interesting & Im so grateful to have found it.

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