Valance thumbnail 1
Valance thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On display at National Trust, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

Valance

1570-1585 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Now on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk, the embroideries on this valance were made between 1569 and about 1585. They are part of a body of needlework done by Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment in England and Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. Bess's husband George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury was responsible for Mary and she stayed at one or other of the Shrewsbury' estates.

Embroidery was a conventional occupation for wealthy and elite women in the 16th century. Most of the motifs depicted were copied from the wood-cut illustrations of emblem books and natural histories by well-known authors such as Claud Paradin, Conrad Gessner, Pierre Belon. These often represented sentiments and morals from classical literature and contemporary folklore and so can convey hidden meaning.

This valance comprises 13 cross-shaped panels of canvas work (stitching over the threads of a coarsely woven linen) in coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, mounted on green velvet. Each depicts a species of birds, animals or fish. One panel is signed with Bess of Shrewsbury's monogram 'ES' and one with 'B'. Household accounts show that both Mary and Bess had professional embroiderers on staff, who may have executed the 'unsigned' pieces on this valance. The existing 'hangings' are not the original arrangement of the embroidery. They may have first served as cushion covers or smaller hangings in Bess's various houses, while Mary frequently sent embroideries as gifts to friends and supporters, as well as Queen Elizabeth.

The embroideries were given to Ann Dacre, Countess of Arundel, daughter-in-law of the Duke of Norfolk who was executed in 1574 for plotting to marry Mary and supplant Queen Elizabeth. It is thought that the current arrangement of wall hanging, two bed curtains and valance was put together in the late 17th century by Ann Dacre's daughter-in-law, Alathea Talbot, granddaughter of Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury. The hangings made their way through descendants of the Arundels to Cowdray Park. In 1761, the hangings came to Oxburgh Hall. They were purchased by the National Art Collections Fund in 1955. Unable to give them directly to the National Trust, the NACF donated the hangings to the V&A Museum, on condition they remain at Oxburgh.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Embroidered silk velvet in silks and silver-gilt thread, applied canvaswork, metal braid, lined with silk
Brief Description
Valance of embroidered silk velvet in silks and silver-gilt thread, made by Elizabeth Talbot and possibly by Mary Queen of Scots, England, 1570-1585
Physical Description
Embroidered valance of green velvet with an all-over interlaced pattern worked in couched cord with red silk and silver-gilt thread. To the velvet are applied 13 cross-shaped panels embroidered in coloured silks and silver-gilt thread with figures of animals, birds and fish in cross stitch. Metal braid along the lower edge. Lined with green silk.
Dimensions
  • Height: 216in
  • Width: 180in
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Summary
Now on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk, the embroideries on this valance were made between 1569 and about 1585. They are part of a body of needlework done by Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment in England and Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. Bess's husband George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury was responsible for Mary and she stayed at one or other of the Shrewsbury' estates.



Embroidery was a conventional occupation for wealthy and elite women in the 16th century. Most of the motifs depicted were copied from the wood-cut illustrations of emblem books and natural histories by well-known authors such as Claud Paradin, Conrad Gessner, Pierre Belon. These often represented sentiments and morals from classical literature and contemporary folklore and so can convey hidden meaning.



This valance comprises 13 cross-shaped panels of canvas work (stitching over the threads of a coarsely woven linen) in coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, mounted on green velvet. Each depicts a species of birds, animals or fish. One panel is signed with Bess of Shrewsbury's monogram 'ES' and one with 'B'. Household accounts show that both Mary and Bess had professional embroiderers on staff, who may have executed the 'unsigned' pieces on this valance. The existing 'hangings' are not the original arrangement of the embroidery. They may have first served as cushion covers or smaller hangings in Bess's various houses, while Mary frequently sent embroideries as gifts to friends and supporters, as well as Queen Elizabeth.



The embroideries were given to Ann Dacre, Countess of Arundel, daughter-in-law of the Duke of Norfolk who was executed in 1574 for plotting to marry Mary and supplant Queen Elizabeth. It is thought that the current arrangement of wall hanging, two bed curtains and valance was put together in the late 17th century by Ann Dacre's daughter-in-law, Alathea Talbot, granddaughter of Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury. The hangings made their way through descendants of the Arundels to Cowdray Park. In 1761, the hangings came to Oxburgh Hall. They were purchased by the National Art Collections Fund in 1955. Unable to give them directly to the National Trust, the NACF donated the hangings to the V&A Museum, on condition they remain at Oxburgh.
Bibliographic References
  • Francis de Zuleuta, Embroideries by Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Talbot at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, Oxford, 1923
  • Margaret Swain, The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, Carlton, Bedford: Ruth Bean, 1973
  • Donald King, ed, British Textile Design in the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tokyo, 1980, vol. 1, plate 22
Collection
Accession Number
T.32-1955

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record createdJuly 18, 2007
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