The original item from Perry-Joyce Fine Arts is now SOLD.
In 18th century England, one of the most useful occupations for a lady was sewing. Because most women of means knew how to use the needle, a large industry developed to cater to this fashion. Yet for all the early needlework that was created in the 18th and early 19th centuries, few pieces were created that show the simple image of a lady actually doing needlework.
I’m sure this piece is a one-off. I have never before seen this pattern, nor any close likeness. The pretty young lady in it is engrossed in sewing on a white piece of fabric. Perhaps she is mending it or installing her initials on it. In any case, this is an enchanting piece of Georgian needlework that illustrates just what all the fuss was about.
The effect of this young maiden doing her needlework is mesmerizing. Not only is the subject matter rare, but the high degree of skill that our stitcher employed in order to accomplish this extraordinary piece of needlework just begs for attention.
The girl is sitting serenely with her needle and thread as if in her own world. Beside her is the most wonderful embroidered birdcage with a canary perched within it. Our stitcher was a lady of incomparable skill and expertise in the art of embroidery. The stitches she used to accomplish this piece are exceptionally fine and almost undetectable.
The girl is wearing a shawl around her shoulders that is exquisitely shaded with blues and golds. Her dress is long and billowing, with the folds worked in long and short stitches that have transpired to create this billowing effect of fabric. But for me, the piece de resistance was the large bonnet made in stitches that resemble woven straw. Resting on top of this bonnet is a huge bow of blue ribbon worked in light to dark blue and encompassing the entire crown. There is even a blue bow under her chin, the culmination of the blue ribbon ties that hold her hat onto her head.
In her hand, painted with watercolor, is a large needle. (Face, hands and arms were painted in watercolor, as was the custom of the day.) And threaded through this needle is a long piece of silk floss. It just captures her activity as nothing else could. The table upon which the birdcage rests is done in long and short stitches with just the right amount of shading to give it form and structure.
Flanking the needleworker’s other side is a small potted shrub, worked almost entirely in French knots. These knots serve as the leaves of the shrub. They are in harmonized colors of blue and grey, blending with the colors of her costume. The pot in which it is planted is also a delight as it is well shaded to make it appear rounded. The carpet is worked entirely in French knots and the tiniest of stitches that resemble small dots.
The oval wood and gesso frame is original to the piece. However, I have had it restored as there were a few losses, mostly to the outer running pattern decorative edging. The beaded inner border is a wonderful addition to this most attractive early frame.
On the back of the piece there is hand-written verse, entitled “Industry.” The poem seems to sum up early thought on this subject:
“Les the well instructed Fair, Train’d by fond maternal care, Cultivate an useful art, And to Beauty Grace impart. Industry, the source of wealth, Guide to happiness and health, Trains her for domestic life, Pleasing men of a Wife.”
The condition of the silkwork is superb, as is the color retention. There is no foxing, splits, tears or stains. The quality of this piece is simply remarkable and exceptional, especially considering its age of over two centuries. As I have had the frame professionally restored, it is now in excellent condition and does a handsome job of framing this rare and beautiful piece of early needlework.
It measures 9 inches wide by 11-5/8 inches high, including the frame.
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Rare Early 19th Century Georgian Silkwork of a Lady Sewing
San Francisco, CA
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