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The image of a young woman dropping flowers on a tomb was an immensely popular theme from around the 1780s through the early 19th century. Its origin can be traced to a painting by Angelica Kaufman (1740-1807), which depicts the goddess, Fame, decorating Shakespeare’s tomb with flowers. Considered one of the first successful female European artists, Kauffman created the painting in 1772. Many engravings of it were created, resulting in copies of the image that were not always exactly faithful to the original. These copies were done in various art forms primarily by young girls who were caught up in its romanticism. Many were created in needlework, and as their inspiration came from the black and white engravings and etchings they had seen, the embroiderers were free to choose the colors for their works.
This silkwork rendition of Kauffman’s famous painting is finely worked in silk floss. The embroidery is excellent, showing the stitcher’s talent, as well as giving us a wonderful depiction of the scene.
Our mourning goddess, Fame, is wearing a beautiful gown stitched in long and short stitches with shades of gold silk floss. The billowing clothing has folds and full body due to the expert shading and stitching. She has a long flowing shawl that is draped over one shoulder. Her head, hair, small wings, arms and feet with ribbon-like sandals were all done in watercolor as was the style of the day.
Shakespeare’s tomb was done primarily in satin stitch and outlined in an overlay stitch in contrasting silk floss. Our stitcher misspelled “Shakespeare” by not including the final “e” in the name, which only makes the piece that much more endearing.
The background bushes were done in a bevy of overlay stitches, giving a third-dimensional effect. The leaves on the large tree behind the tomb were done in a similar stitch, adding great detail to the piece.
It is housed in its original gilded frame that has been enameled in parts. Apart from the addition of the enameling, it is in excellent condition for its age of some 200 years. There is a soft-colored paper mat with a gilded border and four gilded snowflake-like motifs in each corner. I believe that this mat has replaced the original eglomise glass. The glass that is on this piece is antique, with bubbles. However, the work is of such age that the glass, too, may have been replaced at some time.
The condition of the silkwork is excellent. However, the backing silk of the sky has split in places.
This is a very pretty piece of late-18th century Georgian silkwork, and in spite of the addition of the paper mount it would still look good wherever it is placed. It has retained much of its original charm.
It measures 15-7/8 inches wide by 17-7/8 inches high, including the frame. The size of the oval image alone is 10 inches wide by 13 inches high.
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Late 18th Century Georgian Memorial Silkwork of Fame at Shakespeare’s Tomb
$195 $235 SALE PENDING
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