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Cushion cover

Cushion cover

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1615 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sheldon Tapestry Workshops (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry-woven in wool, silk and metal thread

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In an age of oak furniture, when benches and stools were more common than chairs, cushions played an important part in the furnishing of British country houses. Numerous examples are listed in contemporary inventories. They were either tapestry woven, as here, or embroidered in sturdy wool canvaswork. In the case of more delicate examples made of luxury silks and velvets, they were sometimes worked with metal thread. In the tapestry-weaving technique the supporting threads (warp threads), usually made of linen or wool, are stretched and fixed onto a loom. The weaver creates a pattern using coloured threads (weft threads), often wool but sometimes silk or even gold or silver. These are wrapped around a hand-held shuttle and passed over and under alternate warps for the area over which a particular colour is required. Another colour is then taken up so that the pattern is gradually developed.

Tapestry was fairly hard-wearing and thus quite utilitarian, although the best examples, such as the present piece, were beautifully decorated with narratives and other favoured motifs. Cushion covers were either square or long for benches.

The scene shown is the Flight into Egypt, the episode from the life of Jesus Christ when his parents took him to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod, who intended to have all boys under the age of two killed. The Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus are shown on a donkey, while Joseph is seen to the right, leading the donkey and carrying his carpenter's tools. The top and lower borders contain hunting scenes and each corner has fashionably dressed figures of two men and two women, perhaps indicating the type of clients who might use the cushion.

Physical description

The narrative of Mary and Joseph fleeing into Egypt is represented in the central image of this cushion cover.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1600-1615 (made)


Sheldon Tapestry Workshops (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tapestry-woven in wool, silk and metal thread


Height: 48 cm, Width: 46 cm

Descriptive line

Tapestry woven cushion cover with the Flight into Egypt


Wool; Silk; Silver-gilt thread



Subjects depicted

Architecture; Rabbit; Dog (animal); Donkey


Household objects; Christianity; Tapestry


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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