When Victoria came to the British throne in 1837, her reign ushered in a new style of splendor, opulence, and exuberance of romantic detail. The burgeoning new middle class desired to emulate the comforts and cultural activities of the nobility and privileged class. This often meant filling—and over-filling—their homes with an assortment of objects and furniture not before affordable or easily available.
One of the elements of this new decorating style involved incorporating embroidered pieces into decorative accessories for the home. Embroidered pictures became the vogue. From around 1830 until around 1880 the form of this embroidery was Berlin woolwork. The patterns and designs took advantage of the new range of colors in the yarns made possible by advancing synthetic dyes over natural, vegetable dyes. These new wools were dyed in Berlin and the patterns for the embroideries were also created and published there.
This beautifully embroidered pair of Berlin woolwork pictures were done during this craze. They date to around 1850 and were meant to be a pair. One of the vignettes features a shepherd with his sheep and lamb in a landscape. It was worked in the traditional counted cross stitch. However, the shepherd’s face was done in fine pettipoint. The entire background was worked in soft, red yarn, thereby tying together both pictures.
The picture with the kittens was worked in the same shades of yarn as that of the shepherd. It was entitled “Pet Kittens.” The same shade of red yarn was used for the background, but some additional triangular shapes were added in each corner for decorative effect.
Both pieces are housed in identical wide rosewood frames with large embossed wood and gesso gilded slips. Both have bubbled and wavy Victorian glass.
As they have been very well cared for over the last 175 or so years, the pair is in excellent condition. If anything, there is a slight degree of fading in the lighter colors. The red yarn, however, has excellent color retention.
The frames are in excellent condition as well. They have a glowing patina and a deep red-brown color. Even the highly decorative gilded slips have aged exceptionally well and add a pretty element to this special early Victorian pair of pictures.
Both measure about 19-1/2 inches wide by 21-1/2 inches high, including their frames.
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