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Antique Theorem Painting on Velvet in Original Frame - Americana - Folk Art - Textiles - 1800 - 1840 - Birdseye Maple Veneer
This delicate antique theorem painting on velvet was created during the first half of the 19th C when theorem painting flourished in the US. This particular example boasts delicate colors and hand painted accents such as detailed thorns on the rosebuds and tiny dots that define a ribbed design on the container, a beautiful antique frame and the old wavy glass you hope to find.
Theorem painting is the technique of using layered stencils to create more complicated images, and was popularized in the US around 1800. After the American Revolution the US economy began to change from a rural based model to one that was more urban centered and prosperous. Along with this economic development came a shift toward cultural refinement with a great hunger for art and the trappings of a more gracious lifestyle. Many young women now had time free from household chores, allowing them to study theorem painting in the many new academies and seminaries that opened to instruct women in the social arts such as embroidery and hostessing. Theorem painting caught on because of its relative ease as compared to embroidery, and it remained a popular art form until around 1840 when it was supplanted by the newer technique of 'Tinsel Painting.'
CONDITION is simply wonderful. The Velvet shows a relatively minor amount of discoloration for such an old piece. I believe it is in its original frame, a birdseye maple veneer beauty with gilded liner in original finish. There is some loss of the veneer that can be seen in the picture of the bottom frame edge, but difficult to actually see since the wood underneath matches so well in color. Somewhere along the way the original wooden backing was replaced with a piece of textured artist board which itself looks toned and somewhat brittle to me, but may have saved this piece form the greater damage done to textiles pressed against old wood for many years. Unsigned like most antique theorems. Measures 21 1/2" x 20 1/4" overall, with a sight size of 15 1/4" x 13 7/8".
I think I count at least twelve, maybe fourteen, distinct flowers in this lovely theorem composition, many of them created from multiple stencils. So to my mind, this piece was quite a complicated undertaking, especially considering that the stencils were opaque which made them difficult to place with accuracy. The skill with which this complex image was conceived and executed gives a much more naturalistic appearance to the bouquet than is generally seen, while the container and plinth display the more stilted appearance typical of theorems which are assembled piece by piece.
An authentic, beautiful piece of antique American Folk Art. This theorem will perfectly complement a period decor, but I can also imagine it in a more contemporary setting where the texture of the old frame and sumptuous aged velvet would simply glow. Enjoy!
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