Bed Curtain

1700-1715 (made)
Bed Curtain thumbnail 1
Bed Curtain thumbnail 2
+4
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 123
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This embroidered curtain was made as part of a full set of bed hangings in England in the early 18th century. When acquired by the Museum, the set was said to have come from Wattisfield Hall, near Bury St Edmunds.

Crewelwork hangings became the most popular form of English domestic furnishing in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The design was heavily influenced by contemporary Indian embroideries imported into Europe by the East India Company.

These embroideries experienced a revival of interest as antiques and fashionable furnishings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when sets (many of which had survived) were bought for use on antique four-poster beds and were also split up and used as curtains on windows. At the time the work was described erroneously as 'Jacobean' work, but later acquired the nickname 'Jacobethan'. Original crewelwork hangings were used in fashionable homes and those of collectors, but the style also spread to new furnishings, with contemporary designers and manufacturers producing printed linens with similar trailing tree and hillock designs.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 10 parts.

  • Hanging
  • Hanging
  • Hanging
  • Bed Hanging
  • Valance
  • Valance
  • Valance
  • Valance
  • Valance
  • Valance
Materials and Techniques
Embroidery in wools on a cotton and linen twill ground in brick and stem stitches with French knots
Brief Description
Set of crewelwork bed hangings in 10 parts, English early 18th century
Physical Description
Set of bed hangings, embroidered in crewel wool in different shades predominantly browns and greens, on twill ground. The design is typical of crewelwork: the leaves are attached to meandering branches, and embroidered with different filling stitches; there are no birds or animals, and only a very small mound at the base of the curtains from which the branches are growing.
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Collectors were keen to acquire authentic 17th- and 18th-century textiles for their homes. This curtain is part of a set of hangings for a four-poster bed. Many such sets were cut up in the 19th century to make cushion covers, smaller curtains or chair seats in an appropriate period style.(27/03/2003)
Object history
The vendor William Newton said that the set had come from Wattisfield Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He described it as comprising 2 curtains 7' x 6'3", 2 curtains 6'3" x 3'3", 3 top valances with fringe, 3 bottom valances, and 3 plain bits to go at the back of top valances. He also notes : "two of the curtains are dated in old marking with June 30 1713 and 1713/14, but this might have been when they came into possession of a new owner."



13 parts were numbered.

Parts J, K and L were written off in 1933, RF 33/584. They were included on a list of objects described as "quite unsuitable for Museum purposes in any way either in this museum or in any other Museum. As Mr Tattersall suggests some might be used as material [for repairing or in other ways] but many are fitted only for destruction". The list was subdivided, and they were included in the section marked as suitable for sale. They were, however, destryoed, 27/7/1934.

The rest of the set was divided between the Textiles Department (parts c,f and i) and Circulation Department (353, a, b, d, e, g and h). The set was described as "lined, some with linen and some with canvas : they are bordered with modern green braid."



The measurements of the written off valances were :

5'11" x 11", 6' x 11.5", 4'5.5" x 11.5".
Historical context
This type of late 17th / early 18th century crewelwork was very popular again in the early 20th century. When the set was offered to the museum for purchase in 1907, its acquisition was recommended : "apart from their usefulness in hanging round one of our contemporary bedsteads in the furnished rooms, the demand for such specimens of English worsted embroidery is constant and increasing." "The work of this character in the Museum is being constantly copied by students". "Embroideries of this character are very useful for students and are in great demand".

There is also an endorsement by Walter Crane : "A set of embroidered bed-hangings (crewelwork) of late 17th century period (English) are extremely good and well preserved. The curtains especially. These would be very useful for the Circulation Department as examples for needlework students. And the price is moderate. 24/4/07."
Production
part 353a has the written inscription "jan 4 1713/14".
Summary
This embroidered curtain was made as part of a full set of bed hangings in England in the early 18th century. When acquired by the Museum, the set was said to have come from Wattisfield Hall, near Bury St Edmunds.



Crewelwork hangings became the most popular form of English domestic furnishing in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The design was heavily influenced by contemporary Indian embroideries imported into Europe by the East India Company.



These embroideries experienced a revival of interest as antiques and fashionable furnishings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when sets (many of which had survived) were bought for use on antique four-poster beds and were also split up and used as curtains on windows. At the time the work was described erroneously as 'Jacobean' work, but later acquired the nickname 'Jacobethan'. Original crewelwork hangings were used in fashionable homes and those of collectors, but the style also spread to new furnishings, with contemporary designers and manufacturers producing printed linens with similar trailing tree and hillock designs.
Collection
Accession Number
353 to I-1907

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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