Early 17th Century Needlework of King David English Stuart Period Circa 1630
An intriguing depiction which seems rare and unrecorded (we have not been able to find the printed source for this particular scene - leading us to believe that this is an imagined biblical landscape by the Stuart period needle worker. The closest source that we have found is an image of a man fighting a Lion symbolizing self control from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia circa 1645. Due to its dimensions our small very early 17th century needlework panel was most likely originally wrought as a cushion. At this period cushions were used not only used in the cold, draughty Stuart residences to make interiors more warm and homely; but such cushions were also used as Bible rests in Church services.
See similar circa 1600 needlework examples in all of the major UK and USA museums in cushion form, needlework panel form and of course embroidered book bindings of this period. Similar examples are owned by some distinguished private collections such as The V and A Museum London, their's dated to 1600 and is very similar indeed in size and silver thread, Museum number T.28-2015. See also The Feller Collection and a very similar silver thread cushion cover can be seen housed at The Met Museum.
The figural scene depicts two images of King David from the Old Testament Book of Samuel. The image on the left shows King David as a young brave shepherd wrestling with the Lion who attached his flock. We adore that he is dressed in early 17th century fashion with fashionable beard, small collar, slashed or paned doublet, huge billowing breeches and slender hose and shoes to show off those shapely calves. In the center of the balanced composition we see the Lyre, symbolizing David's renowned musical talent and to the right of Kind David is an open book, symbolizing his renowned talent for poetry/psalms. King David kneels on a tasseled cushion speaking, orating to God. Top left the Temple of Solomon where the Ark of the Covenant rested. Top right the Eye of providence - the all seeing eye of God overseeing King David's actions, both ancient freemasonry symbols. Surrounding the scene we see delightful and very typical 17th century birds and beasts. We see butterfly, snails, worms, a coursing hare, dog, lion, stag and a hungry flying bird eating a juicy worm. Comically all of the animals around the edges are half not whole, we see some coming forward and in the case of a horse some leaving (we are unsure if this panel has been reduced in size to fit the frame). We particularly like the bird with the very pointy beak at 3 o'clock. Along the base we see typical 17th century peapod flowers. The entire canvas ground worked in Elizabethan ground stitch/ Gobelin stitch using silver passing (silver wrapped thread). The Kings gold crown, cope and the centers of flowers worked in laid coiled, smooth purl, rough purl and raised metal thread. The figures worked in very fine tent stitch.
SIZE. Frame 12.5" (32 cm) by 9.75" (24 cm). Sight 10.25" (26 cm) by 7.25" (18.5 cm)
CONDITION. Housed in an 18th century stained wood frame and behind old glass. The condition of this 350 plus year old example is very good but as one would expect not perfect. There is some dulling and losses to the silver metal thread ground - this needlework would have dazzled when first made in 1650. There is some fading to the colored thread but really not too bad at all. Some darkening to the black thread on one fly but this is common with the natural dye that was used. The Temple or Ark has lost much of its thread, making it difficult to identify detail. There is an area at 8 o'clock of bear canvas work. The silver thread trim to some sides is loose or disintegrated in places. There is a small 0.5" tear in the silver ground bottom right corner. The very ancient frame has expansion evidence to all corners, the right top and bottom in particular but all is sound and strong.
Its small popular size and rare subject matter make this ancient Stuart needlework example an absolute treasure.
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