This wonderfully small monochromatic silk and hair work embroidery depicts an allegorical subject in a classical setting, who has clasped hands, possibly in prayer. This exquisite silkwork was wrought in England during the 18th century, circa 1790 to 1795. The sitter could be one of the famous 18th century actresses playing the role, either Mrs Elizabeth Sheridan or Mrs Sarah Siddons or even perhaps Nelson's mistress, Emma Hamilton! See George Romney's portrait of Saint Cecilia engraved by George Keating at The British Museum, which by all accounts was a portrait of Emma Hamilton in the role.
We adore her flowing classical toga, in contrast to her distinctly complex 1790 hairstyle when powdered hair was fashionable with hair piled at the top and sides and left long around the nape of the neck.
This type of highly skilled silk embroidery is called a printwork and was popular for a limited time between 1790-1820 both in Europe and North America. This style of needlework imitated the very fashionable engravings that were so popular during the 1750-1800 period. The needleworker painstakingly imitated the dots, lines and cross hatching of the copper plate engraver. Topographical views were popular and also famous paintings and scenes from plays and in the USA - mourning depictions. See page 29 of Margaret Swain's book 'Embroidered Georgian Pictures' for some similar examples.
Our example has the added advantage of real hair having been incorporated. Yes, real hair, can you imagine sewing with it? Study her complex hair where you will see shades of grey and brown hair....just remarkable. Her facial features and body were painted on plain woven silk in an en grisaille/monochrome palette with teeny, pin prick size stitches to imitate a stipple engraving.
Housed in a later over-painted oval wood frame with old glass.
Size: Framed 7 inch tall by 6 inch wide.
Condition: The actual silkwork printwork is in remarkably good condition with minor fading to the hair. Some old trapped debris under the glass. The frame appears unopened and therefore original but as mentioned it has been over painted black, we can see traces of gold underneath.
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Rare 18th Century Miniature Silkwork Embroidery, Hairwork, Printwork Needlework Circa 1790 Georgian
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