Thursday, March 17, 2016

Every picture tells a story


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This embroidered wall hanging, one of a pair was made during the reign of William and Mary who were unique in British history as they were the only monarchs to have reigned jointly.
They succeeded to the throne after James II, Mary’s father was deposed in 1688.
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Mary loved animals. In her gallery visitors had to be careful not to trip over the little red velvet beds she had made for her dogs and bird cages hung at each of the windows. She was a great homemaker, and at Kensington Palace her massive collection of ceramics was arranged throughout all her rooms.
The Dutch William brought his county’s taste in furniture with him and many stylistic points where adopted by the English furniture manufacturers. This was driven by the want for an increase in comfort. Chairs became padded  and the upholstered needlepoint chair seat became the height of fashion for the home.
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During the reign of William and Mary persecuted Huguenots, were invited to take refuge in England. Many were master craftsmen and artisans who found employment in professional workshops and the households of nobility and royalty.
Middle and upper class amateur needlewomen played a large role in developing the embroidery of this period and their work could be found throughout their own homes in cushions, carpets, tablecloths, beds, chairs, stools and mirrors. Panels such as the ones being auctioned were substitutes for the large tapestries found in royal residences and stately homes.
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William was devastated when Mary died of small pox at only 32 years of age. For the rest of his life he cherished a lock of her hair and her wedding ring. After her death in 1694 William ruled alone until he died after a fall from his horse in 1702. As William and Mary had no children, something that always grieved Mary, the crown passed to Mary’s sister, Princess Anne.

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On April 6th 2016 Woolley and Wallis  will be auctioning the wall hangings which have been cataloged as:-
A rare and fine pair of William and Mary needlework hangings, embroidered in various stitches including chain and satin, worked with a multitude of different figures and scenes, secular and biblical including: Elijah and the raven and St. Jerome and the lion, with a man and a woman dancing to a piper, a North American Indian, a lady walking a young child in a walking frame, a Turk on horseback hunting a stag with dogs, a maid milking a cow, figures brawling outside an inn, with lions, parrots, a peacock, rabbits, snakes, a horse and dogs and various flowers and trees, all under a stylized sky, each with a later backing, c.1700, 154 x 87cm and 155 x 86.5cm. (2)
Provenance: Purchased by the present vendor from E. T. Biggs & Sons LTD. 26, 28, 30 & 32 High Street, Maidenhead, 16th January 1965.
Guide Price 8,000 – 12,000 GBP


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The hangings are a wonderful example of narrative embroidery. They inspire me to embroider a panel that tells a story. If you have ever considered doing so then a book well worth studying is  The Art of Narrative Embroidery by Rosemary Farmer and Maggie Ferguson.
Narrative cover
Published by Prestoungrange University Press it is a narrative in  itself telling the story of the creation of two tapestries:–
the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry which narrates the story of the Jacobite uprising and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s  success on the battlefield at Prestonpans on 21st September 1745
and
the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry which tells the stories of the hardy Scots who travelled across the world to make a new life, taking their culture and talents with them.
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“How do you stitch a mountain, a tartan kilt, a tweed jacket, a ship, castle, or an explorer? Many of the visitors to The Battle of Prestonpans and The Scottish Diaspora Tapestries have asked these questions, and within this book, we hope you will find inspiring answers.The images have been chosen to highlight the way in which the embroiderers have brought these unique stories to life with simple stitches – one stitch at a time. These tapestries with their human stories, stitched as community projects, have created two wonderful narrative embroideries, telling tales often hitherto untold. The task given to the volunteer embroiderers in many communities worldwide was to create their panels using stitches which would best convey the story being told. Many had years of experience, but many were stitching for the very first time! They have clearly done extraordinarily well. And they have again and again demonstrated great initiative.”
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Mary Corbett review did an indepth REVIEW of the book which is an excellent read.

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