Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The eye of the needle

This exhibition of 17th century English embroideries (and some lace) at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford celebrates the skill of the needlewomen who made them. The exhibition focuses on the social context in which they were stitched explaining technique and construction as well as the themes and motifs that were popular with 17th century women. The exhibition includes band samplers, pictorial scenes, bags, coifs, caps, book covers and embroidery tools from the Museum and the Feller collection. Three of the band samplers incorporated exquisite pulled work and needlelace and I was impressed with the tiny eyelets making up the alphabet on the 1671 sampler by Mary Lane.  Biblical and allegorical themes were popular for the panels and many were copied from Gerard de Jode’s 1579 collection of biblical illustrations. ‘The judgement of Solomon’ was a popular theme and my favourite panel was a three dimensional needlelace rendering of that scene. It seemed full of life with applied leaves, curtains, pearls and even a lifelike baby, all beautifully depicted in tiny stitches. The exhibition runs until 12 October.

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