Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Muslin dress from the Great Exhibition

This beautifully embroidered muslin dress was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 by Messrs Brown, Sharps & Co of Paisley. The accompanying text notes that ‘These manufacturers have long been famous: having obtained eminence not only for the excellence of their work but for the purity and beauty of their designs’. It continues by explaining that they use artists to produce the designs who are not ‘merely Provincial’ and apologises for the inadequacy of the engraving in not conveying the full beauty of the needlework. The actual embroidery in this sample is 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. It must have been a lovely piece. However, it does not receive much praise in a later essay in the same volume discussing ‘The exhibition as a lesson in taste’ by Ralph Nicolson Wornum (for which he won a prize of 100 guineas). He notes that although there is a ‘rich dress exhibited by Brown Sharps & Co’, in general, regarding the level of design in lace and embroidered muslin, the exhibition ‘contains very little that is good’. I think he was being a little harsh!

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