Connecticut River Valley (?): Ca. 1840. This sewn composition is a landscape of a castle near a water body, with a suspension bridge, birds flying above and skiffs plying the water in the foreground. It is based on a Bartlett engraving drawn by J. C. Armytage, "Conway Quay" published in William Finden's "The Ports, Harbours, Watering-Places and Coast Scenery of Great Britain" (London: George Virtue , 1836-1842). The stitches used include French knot, satin stitch, back stitch and seed stitch.
Silk embroidered pictures became very fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and were taught at private girls schools and ladies' academies as an essential accomplishment. The subject matter was generally drawn from engravings illustrating history, the Bible, mythology or mourning compositions. The image was drawn onto the silk by the teacher or student and a linen border was sewn around the edge of the silk, then nailed or laced to a wooden frame to provide a taut surface for the needle worker. Once the embroidery was complete, the student, teacher or an itinerant artist called a "limner" would paint the faces and the background in watercolors and ink. (1)
This example is an unusual instance of wool thread on a silk canvas. Based on the subject matter, the choice of sewing material, the unusual perspective of the foreground and the fact that the silk is unpainted, it is likely that this landscape was completely planned and executed by the young woman learning her stitch work.
Although the artist is unknown, purchase records from Connecticut indicate the origin of the work may be the Connecticut River Valley, an important center for the teaching and production of embroidered pictures by women, when this image may have been executed. (2). Please note: Due to the fragility of this work, the rear of the embroidered panel has not been exposed and inspected for clues as to provenance.
A very good example of schoolgirls' crewel on silk needlework picture, with small hairline cracks in the silk canvas above the stitching on the far left and right, faint foxing above the castle and some split silk threads in the foreground likely due to tension in a thread that was too long.
9 x 10 7/8", needle work visible; 16 3/4 x 18 3/4" in archival frame. Wool and silk thread on silk canvas.
(1) Huber, Carol; Huber, Stephen; Schoelwer, Susan P.; Lansing, Amy Kurtz. (2011) With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroider from the Connecticut River Valley, 1740-1840. Old Lyme: Florence Griswold Museum. p. 20
(2) Ibid. p. 8. Item #26400