When British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne first saw Edwin Landseers’s painting of Queen Victoria’s pets, he remarked, “Good God! How like!” Melbourne was the Queen’s close friend and chief adviser during the early part of her reign and knew of her attachments to her pets. The Skye terrier, Islay, was described by Victoria as “my faithful little companion…always with me, and a great darling.” The painting was commissioned by the Queen and completed in 1839. Today, “Islay, Tilco, a Macaw and Two Lovebirds” remains part of the Royal Collection.
Likenesses of this beloved work have been done in various mediums, including paintings and needlework. This fabulous piece of Victorian woolwork embroidery, dating to around 1860, was stitched on fine linen. It was done in soft, colored, thin wool yarns in tiny tent stitches. The stitches are in even rows and the execution of this piece illustrates the stitcher’s technical skill at creating memorable needlework pictures.
The piece consists of a harmonious mix of golds, reds, pinks, greens, browns, whites, beiges and blues. There is a pretty bush to the right of the terrier with large cabbage roses exuberantly blooming. The terrier is exquisitely shaded, his tousled fur intricately worked in white, beige and brown. He sports a large salmon-colored collar with a lock.
The parrots are marvelously depicted in rainbow colors, and reds, greens and golds for the macaw. There is a small lake with Windsor castle in the background, adding interest to the scene. The spaniel at the bottom is portrayed in a less active role than the terrier, happy to have one of the parrot’s feathers in its mouth.
The whole work is encased in an antique gold frame with several gilded slips. Although not original to the piece, the frame is of the same period and suits it well.
The woolwork has experienced some overall fading and some slight age toning to the canvas. I have had it professionally cleaned and restored by an expert textile conserver. It was placed on acid-free fabric. It has also been re-stretched and a large sheet of cardboard was placed on the back for protection. It is therefore in excellent, ready-to-hang condition. The antique frame has been restored as well, bringing it back to its original beauty.
It measures about 33 inches wide by 43 inches high, including the frame.
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