Antique Early 18th Century Straw Work Applique Collage Circa 1720
This exceptional, miniature artwork was made as a devotional piece during the first half of the 18th century. This type of silkwork collage picture, although there are no stitches - is extremely rare. It is rare not because it is a devotional piece but because of HOW it was constructed. Please see the Victoria and Albert Museum, London for a similar example.
Of Dutch or Germany origin this rarity was created around the 1720-40 period from an earlier 17th century engraving ( see the engravings of Johan von Achen (1552-1615)). This 'dressed print' decorative art form was very popular during the first half of the 18th century. Known as Adorned or Dressed Prints, ancient engravings would be cut away using a very sharp knife tool leaving just a face or thin outer frame ( a little like the lead strip framework on stained glass windows). Ornate velvet, silk and luxury gold and silver fabrics, colored paper and sometimes foil would then be inserted from behind. The engraved facial features would then be hand painted and sometimes spangles and unusually in this case, straw work ornamentation applied as a floral border decoration. Each time we study this piece we see some new detailing. Just look at the octagonal central frame; it has been hand painted with a wave and dot type design. The virgin Mary's collar is of a silk fabric with metal thread ( gold now dulled) passing through it. There are several differing woven dress fabrics that make up the figures. These fabrics would have been very bright and vibrant back in the 1700's. Although some have faded you still get a hint of their original color.
The embossed straw work ( raised work) border is very rare. The sheer skill involved in splitting straw, soaking it and then applying it to the rear backing structure to create a three dimensional high relief effect is to be marvelled at and specifically dates this piece to the 18th century. We see trailing berries, tulips and typical late 16th century inspired carnations. The ancient scene depicts the Saint Anne teaching, instructing the Virgin Mary to sew and read. legend has it that Mary spent her formative years at the Temple of Jerusalem being taught by her Mother Anne. Behind Saint Anne is a tent and the Holy Spirit is depicted between Mary and St Anne. See the Flemish 16th century engraving by Adriaen Collaert called Annunciations of the Bible also the Netherlandish engraving of The Life Of The Virgin by Hieronymus Wierix . Also 'Saint Anne and the young Virgin sewing', fresco by the Master of the Bambino Vispo and Peter Paul Rubens Education of the Virgin .
The Birds Eye Maple veneered frame is a later 19th century addition but wiht its old wavy glass, we think that you will agree that it is very pleasing. The maple compliments the straw beautifully. The frame measures 6.75" by 7.75". The visible adorned print measures 5" by 4".
Condition is very good considering its nearly 300 years!! As mentioned the ancient woven silk fabrics have faded a little. The coated paper/ vellum ground again would probably been much brighter ( probably blue), this has faded and appears as a soft grey. There are some minor losses to the straw work flowers.
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