This is a delightfully charming and wonderfully decorative needlework that artfully captures in pettipoint one of the activities of early 19th century domestic life.
The woman sitting at her spinning wheel spinning yarn in an archway covered with twining grape vines is elaborately costumed in a blue bodice, a white apron and a red skirt with black decoration along the bottom. On her head is a pretty little ruffled bonnet. The black interior of the house helps accentuate and define her figure as she happily works. The spinning wheel has bobbin twist legs and a pole attached to capture the newly spun wool yarn. To the right of the spinning wheel, and perched on the railing of the stoop, is a small bird with red breast and black-tipped wings.
The picture is done in soft camel colors, ivory, reds and blues. The colors harmoniously blend with each other. The blues of the grapes dangling above the woman’s head and in the archway make for pretty accents in the composition. There is some amount of silk floss that was used to highlight both the apron and the folds of the bodice.
The whole woolwork is housed in its original beautiful bird’s eye maple frame with a wood and gesso gilded slip. On the back is the original inscribed information along with a typewritten label added later to help clarify the piece’s provenance. The label reads: “This picture was made by Mary Ann Brain (Mrs. Louis Fry’s mother.) It was cleaned and new paper put on back in 1957, but original paper put back (over the new) bearing the date April 1, 1839.” The original inscription, “Mary Ann Brain, April 1, 1839,” was handwritten in black ink and placed in the center of the original backing paper.
The condition of this early piece of needlework is superb. The color retention is remarkable for a piece whose age is 172 years. There is no staining or insect damage. The condition of the maple frame is excellent for its age. There are some cracks in the veneer and a few very minor losses of veneer. But the rich red-brown color and deep, soft patina are very pleasing.
It measures 15-1/4 inches square, including the frame.