Remember the mystery flea market find from the Netherlands I showed you two weeks ago? Elaine Cochrane wrote me an email to tell me that she had a similar piece from England. Hand-painted details with silk embroidery on a silk background. This is Elaine's piece:
By now, Google was finally producing some useful results too! Auction websites list several pieces called 'silk embroidery sampler or tapestry' which look very similar to Elaine's piece. The very fine seeding stitches covering the background are called stipple work by the antique dealers. Pieces are either listed as of French or English origin. Some pieces are rather large and others are of the oval type seen above. The quality of the stitching differs widely, as do the materials used. Some use only silk threads, others add gold threads and chenille.
If you would like to explore these auction listings for yourself, follow these links: Lady with Tomb, Woman at the Well, Two Girls sheltering, Woman with Baby and Angel or ask Google for 'Georgian silk embroidery'. There are some excellent detailed pictures on these sites. You are even able to see the individual stitches!
Now what are these pieces and who made them? Well, thanks to the fabulous blog Austenonly I learned that they were made by women in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a time when women did mostly not receive a sound academic education and were instead send to a ladies' academy. Here, the young daughters of the upper-class were taught ladies accomplishments such as etiquette, music and needlework. A famous woman who hated this type of education was Dr. Aletta Jacobs, the first Dutch woman to be enrolled at a university.
I am wondering if these fine ladies painted the background of these silks themselves. Or were they supplied with painted silks and then embellished them with stitches? In that case: who were the painters? It seems to me that it is quite a niche market and thus more likely that these painted silks were a side-kick of another industry. Your thoughts on that are greatly appreciated!
With regard to the scene depicted on my flea market piece, Rachel from VirtuoSew Adventures had an interesting thought: what if it depicts gentry playing countryside? It was a fashionable past-time at the end of the 18th century. Most famous for the Hameau de la Reine; a peasant village built near Versailles for Queen Marie-Antoinette. She and her court could live the simple life there. Quite a possibility.
Comparing Elaine's piece and the pieces on the auction sites on the one hand and my piece on the other, does show that the style is quite different. The general idea is the same: silk embroidery on a painted silk background. An explanation for the difference in style could be its Dutch origin or my piece could be of a different (probably younger) date. Unfortunately, I am not able to find any Dutch finds on the internet. So if there is anybody out there with a suggestion where I could go and ask for information, please leave a comment!
Jessica M. Grimm
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