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Panel

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1720-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered in tent stitch in wool and silk on linen canvas

  • Museum number:

    T.131-2012

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA13

This needlework panel with its design of chinoiserie and turquerie is only partially worked, and can possibly be interpreted as a ‘kit’, started professionally, with the difficult parts (faces and hands) completed, so that the (amateur) purchaser would then work the rest. The whole design appears to have been drawn directly onto the canvas using black ink, providing a clear guide to the embroiderer. The panel has, in addition to the areas worked, coloured threads put in loosely as colour coding in the clothing of the figures, who are depicted in an approximation of Turkish dress.

The mixture of Chinese and Turkish ornament is typical of the random juxtaposition of such elements in European decorative art in the early 18th century, but may have been particularly influenced by the arrival at the French court in 1721 of the first ambassador from the Ottoman Empire to be received there, and the consequent enthusiasm in France for what was perceived as Turkish style. Turquerie began to appear not only in fashion, interiors and painting but also entered the realms of literature, theatre and opera. Both of the figures here have a pale complexion, suggesting they are perhaps Europeans in fancy dress, although the clothing of the female figure is based on the 17th century French artist Henri Bonnart's print La Grande Sultane.

The amalgamation of real and mythical animals suggests a portrayal of a fantastical foreign land, which is amplified by the fanciful use of scale and unusual details:
In the upper-left of the panel is an inaccurate, or ‘fantastical’, depiction of a flying bird with a tail of three peacock feathers. The winged dragon, or serpent, in the centre of the design has been depicted with only two legs to walk upon and the lion in the bottom-right corner appears to be the size of a small dog when compared to this and the surrounding foliage. What appear to be three lambs or sheep (with undocked tails) are shown lying to the left of the design, watched over by a collared dog of a smaller size. If viewed as being sheep, this grouping is suggestive of pastoral scenes, which were also fashionable at the time. However, the lack of detail available could allow them to also be interpretted as a group of mythical, scaled, dog-like creatures.

The tree in the centre of the design is similar to a date palm, but the simple outlines and varying scaling of the other plants and flowers prevent identification –it is probable that many of them are simply aesthetically pleasing approximations or imagined creations.

Pinholes are visible along the vertical selvages of the canvas panel, most likely as a result of it being attached to a frame to be worked on. The embroidery has been worked in tent stitch which is one of the most basic yet versatile stitches in canvas work embroidery. The intended purpose or method of display for the completed embroidery is unknown but the size of the panel suggests that it could have been mounted as decoration for a fire screen.

Physical description

Panel of linen canvas with a chinoiserie design drawn in ink, of a man and woman in Turkish-style or pseudo Turkish dress. A dragon is below them, and trees, plants, animals, and birds fill the rest of the space.

The canvas has been partly worked in tent stitch in silks and wools, with parts of the figures and dragon highly finished, and single stitches in other areas to indicate colours to be worked. Pinholes are visible along the vertical selvages of the canvas panel, probably a result of it being attached to a frame to be worked on.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)

Date

1720-1750 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered in tent stitch in wool and silk on linen canvas

Dimensions

height: 86.5 cm, width: 58 cm

Historical context note

This needlework panel is only partially worked, and can possibly be interpreted as a ‘kit’, started professionally, with the difficult parts (faces and hands) completed, so that the (amateur) purchaser would then work the rest.

Descriptive line

Unfinished panel of needlework, partially embroidered with wool and silk threads, in tent stitch, on linen canvas, France (probably), ca.1720-50

Labels and date

Unfinished needlework panel
About 1720–50

This may have been a needlework ‘kit’, started by a professional embroiderer and intended for an amateur to complete. The design combines features inspired by both Chinese and Turkish art, with the figures wearing an approximation of Turkish dress. The mixture of real and mythical animals, shown in unusual scale, suggests fantastical foreign lands.

Probably France
Linen canvas with design drawn in ink, partly embroidered with wool and silk
[09/12/2015]

Production Note

This needlework panel is only partially worked, and can possibly be interpreted as a ‘kit’, started professionally, with the difficult parts (faces and hands) completed, so that the (amateur) purchaser would then work the rest.

Materials

Canvas; Linen; Wool; Silk

Techniques

Embroidery; Tent stitch

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Palm; Sash; Man; Woman; Chinoiserie; Lion; Dogs; Turban; Dragon; Birds; Peacock; Fantasy

Categories

Embroidery; Textiles

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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