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Embroidered picture - Esther and Ahasuerus

Esther and Ahasuerus

  • Object:

    Embroidered picture

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1665 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk satin embroidered in silk thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Eric M. Browett in memory of Ada Mary Browett

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Sewing was an important skill for a woman in the 17th century and was taught to girls of all classes from an early age. Plain sewing - hemming and seaming - was of particular value for the production of underclothes and basic household linens. Only a privileged few, however, were able to afford the time and materials for embroidery. There appear to have been a number of accepted markers in the development of a competent needlewoman. First a band sampler was completed, illustrating the range of stitches and techniques that the girl had mastered. Then these skills were developed by sewing a more complex and demanding cut-work sampler. In many cases the final challenge was the production of an embroidered picture like this one, depicting scenes from myth or the Bible using a wide range of stitches and materials. In particular these pictures employ raised work, the technique of embroidering over padding.

It is probable that each individual figure or element was sewn independently and then applied to the delicate white satin background. This meant that the needlewoman could experiment and correct mistakes which would be impossible to rework on the satin.
This picture, almost certainly derived from a contemporary print, tells the Old Testament story of Esther and Ahasuerus. In the centre of the embroidery, Esther, the Jewish wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus warns her husband of a plot by his prime minister Haman to kill all the Jews in his realm. Ahasuerus gestures with his sceptre while Esther holds out a scroll inscribed 'At my petition'. The resulting execution of Haman is depicted in the top left corner of the embroidery. The picture is marked in ink with the initials MI and the date 1665 below the central scene.

Physical description

Embroidery depicting the story of Esther and Ahasuerus in silk thread on white satin. Eight scenes from the story and a fountain are embroidered using a wide range of materials and techniques, including twisted thread, silk floss, thread cut to form a velvet-like pile and raised work.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1665 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk satin embroidered in silk thread


Length: 54.5 cm, Width: 43 cm

Descriptive line

embroidered silk metal, 1662 ?, English; King and Queen with various courtly scenes


Silk thread; Silk satin




Textiles; Embroidery


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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