Thursday, September 22, 2016

Embroidery: The Language of Art

Embroidery: The Language of Art

In this video Linda Eaton talks about one of her favourite things at the Winterhur Museum. Sarah Derby (1747-1774), called Sally, was the youngest child of Richard Derby (1712-1783) and Mary Hodges (1713- 1770) of Salem. She was about eighteen years old, and under the instruction of Jannette Day in Boston, upon completion of her 1763-1766 silk and paint on silk satin overmantel, or chimneypiece.
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Image copyright Winterthur Museum
It was framed in Salem by Samuel Blythe Jr. in 1767. Sally is also credited with another chimneypiece in possibly made in 1765, framed in the manner of Eunice Bourne’s (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Sally married Captain John Gardner in 1769, who later built the Pingree House. They had three children, John, Sarah, and Richard. Sally died the year that Richard was born. This chimneypiece descended to her great, great grandson, Benjamin P. Ellis. Family tradition attributes the general design and painting of the faces and sky to John Singleton Copley, who was a friend of the family, although this claim has not been substantiated.
The embroidery is featured in the current exhibition, Embroidery: The Language of Art,  in the Winterhur Galleries which looks at how the creation of embroidered objects fits into the changing definitions of art, craft, and design throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
From the late Middle Ages it referred to a skill acquired through knowledge and practice as well as the objects produced as a result of that skill, whatever the materials or techniques. In the 18th century a distinction began to be made between fine art, which included only painting, sculpture, and architecture, and applied or decorative art, defined as the design and decoration of more utilitarian objects, including embroidery. Today applied or decorative art is often called craft, another term whose meaning has changed over time.
A needlework conference will be held October 14–15, 2016. Visit the conference WEB PAGE for more information.
If you are unable to view the exhibition in person this video gives an insight into the display. Our thanks to Barbara Reaveley for sharing these videos with us.
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