Gypsies in caravans along roadsides were a common sight in Victorian England. Many period paintings depict them in their encampments. In order to make money to meet their modest needs, gypsies often told fortunes. The women venture out to the nearby villages and tell fortunes in exchange for either money, food or household items.
This large and fabulous picture dates to about 1870. The fortune teller is reading the palm of a spellbound pretty young lady at the gate of the lady’s home. Accompanying her is another woman with a small dog. The remaining figure is a barefoot child standing next to the fortune teller and pointing to the dog. All of the figures are dressed in elaborate and colorful costumes. These costumes were made almost entirely from colored glass beads that were imported from Italy. The only article of clothing not worked in beads is the large gold headscarf on the gypsy.
The faces and hands of all the figures are worked in pettipoint, making this a much finer picture than it would otherwise be. Even the entire dog is worked in pettipoint, complete with a white glass bead for an eye. The young lady’s hair was worked to look like ringlets by using complicated embroidery stitches.
The background was entirely done in tent stitch in soft wools, using harmonizing colors of olive green, golds, beiges, browns and blue-greens.
The end result is quite a colorful, sophisticated and unusual Victorian beadwork picture that has the magic associated with gypsies and fortune telling.
This very large piece is housed in its original Victorian gilt and gesso frame with its original wavy glass. The frame was bronzed at one time. There is a wide gilded slip that is edged next to the wood and gesso elaborately embossed, deeply molded frame.
This condition of the woolwork and the beadwork is excellent. There is no insect damage or staining. There is some overall fading on the woolwork. However, the beads have retained all of their original colors and are just as jewel-like today as they must have been over 150 years ago. The frame is in excellent condition as well, with only a very minor loss or two that have been there for a long time.
It measures 33 inches wide by 38 inches high, including the frame.
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