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Embroidered Picture (England)

This is a Embroidered picture. It is dated 17th century and we acquired it in 1903. Its medium is silk, silk wrapped wire, mica and its technique is raised embroidery on silk 8-harness satin weave with stitches including satin, stem, brick, knot and cross with couching and detached looping. It is a part of the Textiles department.

In the 17th-century, amateur embroiderers or their teachers could commission custom designs from pattern drawers. In Thomas Heywood's 1607 play, “The Faire Maide of the Exchange,” a character known as the 'Drawer' takes detailed instruction for a handkerchief:

In one corner of the same, place wanton love,
Drawing his bow shooting an amorous dart,
Opposite him an arrow in a heart,
In a third corner, picture forth disdaine
A cruel fate unto a loving vaine:
In the fourth draw a springing Laurel-tree,
Circled about with a ring of poesie: and thus it is:
Love wounds the heart, and conquers fell disdayne.

It would certainly take a great deal of time for any designer to incorporate these varied requests into a cohesive decorative effect. More efficient, and therefore more profitable, would be working from a library of motifs that could be mixed to produce endlessly similar yet different designs. In the second half of the 17th century, a fad developed for embroidered pictures, mirror surrounds and valuables cabinets, all highly similar to this piece. The motifs repeat, but their placement and size changes, indicating a merchant who has found a winning 'formula,' as well as a channel to sell the designs.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled An Unfinished Embroidered Picture.

This object was donated by Sarah Cooper Hewitt. It is credited Gift of Sarah Cooper Hewitt.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 36.8 x 44.8 cm (14 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Embroidered Picture (England); silk, silk wrapped wire, mica; H x W: 36.8 x 44.8 cm (14 1/2 x 17 5/8 in.); Gift of Sarah Cooper Hewitt; 1903-11-28

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Embroidered Picture (England) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=11 August 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>