In 18th Century Georgian England, donkeys were often kept for hauling wood, crops and other necessities of country life. In this wonderful early embroidery, the stitcher used a myriad of fine embroidery stitches in order to achieve the effect she sought.
The most notable stitches are in the tree leaves, as they were done in a looped wool stitch that many experts classify as stumpwork. Silk floss was as an embellishment used on the windows to create a leaded, small panes. The sky was also done in silk floss in long stitches to resemble clouds.
The soft wool yarn was no doubt produced at home and dyed with vegetable dyes. The donkey’s shape is rounded as a result of careful shading and stitching in long and short stitches. The harness on its head was done in a satin stitch overlay to give it a third-dimensional effect as well.
The tree trunk was shaded and done in long and short stitches. The cottage behind the donkey was made to reflect two different types of materials from which it was created. The side of the building was stitched to resemble brickwork, with a satin stitch and an overlay outline done in a whip stitch fashion. The front, eave and roof were done in long and short stitches.
There are some indistinct embroidered buildings in the far background with shrubbery in front of them. All the leaves and shrubbery in this work were done in the same type of third-dimensional stitching that only appear in Georgian and Regency work.
The principle colors of the hand-dyed and hand-spun wool yarn work harmoniously with each other. Overall, the stitching is finely executed, which shows the expertise of the stitcher.
The piece is framed in a flat rosewood frame with a wide wood and gesso gilded slip. The colors of the rosewood work well with the colors of the wool embroidery. The rosewood has acquired a rich reddish-brown color and a soft patina. An old piece of glass was used when this picture was re-framed sometime later than the original woolwork.
The overall condition of the piece is excellent, especially considering the age of the embroidery of over 200 years. The silk floss in the sky seems to have broken its individual threads throughout. However, one’s attention is more focused on the fabulous raised wool embroidery rather than the area of the gold silk of the sky. As the color scheme is somber, this piece would best be displayed in good light. The grays, browns and teal blues would all benefit from additional lighting. The frame is generally in excellent condition, but it has some minor old scratching.
It measures 19-1/8 inches wide by 17 inches high, including the frame.