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Valance

  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, made)
    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1570-1599 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered in silks and wools on linen

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss Maud Lilian Ochs

  • Museum number:

    T.136-1991

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Valances were the borders or bands that ran around the two sides and end of an Elizabethan bed, hiding the bed rail or the place from which the bed curtains were suspended. They formed a frieze that was particularly suitable for embroidery with figure subjects, often featuring a narrative to provide interest and entertainment. Sets of bed hangings also created a draught-free and private sleeping compartment.

The style and workmanship of this valance suggests that it was made in a professional workshop either in France itself or under strong French influence.

The setting is an ornamental garden with a mountainous skyline, a popular type of background for such scenes. and most of the figures wear rich contemporary court fashions. The main subject is a pair of seated lovers. They are attended by two women, one holding a mirror and possibly intended to represent Prudence, the other holding a small dog, possibly intended to represent Fidelity. One woman reads a partially legible French inscription, and a small black boy holds up a music score for the musicians on the right of the scene.

Physical description

Embroidered valance in silks and wools in tent stitch on linen, with details in stem stitch and couched work. In fine precision are well dressed figures in an outdoor setting. A little boy servant is holding music above his head for a trio of female musicians in fashionable French court dress who are playing a lute, flute and cello.
Although a partial inscription on the valance is in French, as French was the courtly language of the time this does not necessarily indicate a French origin for the piece.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, made)
France (possibly, made)

Date

1570-1599 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered in silks and wools on linen

Dimensions

Height: 56 cm, Length: 218 cm, Length: 85 in, Height: 22.25 in

Object history note

Registered File number 1957/3032.
May be a partner to T.137-1991.
Formerly on loan to the museum, between 1957 and 1991.

Descriptive line

Embroidered valance in silks and wools on linen, possibly made in England or France, 1570-1599

Labels and date

Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text:

Bed valances
1580–1600

Sets of bed hangings created an enclosed, private space within the bedrooms of palaces and grand houses. They were a focal point for luxurious decoration. The horizontal form of valances suited narratives that continued around the bed. These four valances show scenes of courtly life and stories from classical literature.

England, Scotland or France
Linen canvas, embroidered with wool and silk
V&A T.135, 136-1991. Bequeathed by Maud Ochs
V&A 879&A-1904 []

Materials

Linen (material); Silk thread; Wool yarn

Techniques

Embroidered

Subjects depicted

Boy; Servants; Women; Musical instruments; Fountains; Animals

Categories

Black History; Embroidery; Textiles

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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