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Cushion cover

Cushion cover

  • Place of origin:

    Warwickshire (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1600-1610 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sheldon Tapestry Workshops (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry in silk and wool; 22-23 warp threads per in (9 per cm)

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs F. H. Cook of Barnet, Guildford

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58b, case 6

Object Type
A number of tapestry-woven cushion covers from this period have survived. Some were imported from Flanders (now in The Netherlands and Belgium) and other European weaving centres, while those now thought to be English might have been made at the Sheldon workshop. Although based on the design of a Flemish cushion cover (museum no. T.278-1913 in the British Galleries), the naïveté and startling colours of this cushion cover distinguish it as English.

16th- and early 17th-century houses were very sparsely furnished by modern standards. Chairs were usually reserved for the master and mistress of the house, and cushions were vital in making benches and stools less uncomfortable. Some were tapestry woven and some embroidered.

Subjects Depicted
Other English cushion covers with scenes from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, from the New Testament, survive in private collections, revealing the popularity of the subject, no doubt because of its moral value. The narrative could easily be divided into separate scenes, each of which could be used on a separate cushion cover. With such a well-known story, the scenes could be used on their own or as a complete set.

Physical description

Cushion cover

Place of Origin

Warwickshire (possibly, made)


1600-1610 (made)


Sheldon Tapestry Workshops (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tapestry in silk and wool; 22-23 warp threads per in (9 per cm)


Height: 49.8 cm, Width: 49.8 cm

Object history note

Made at the Sheldon tapestry workshops (Bordersley, Worcestershire or Barcheston, Warwickshire)

Descriptive line

cushion cover tapestry woven, story of the Prodigal Son

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Cushions were important in English country houses. They were decorative and made the hard wooden furniture more comfortable. Both cushion covers show the first scene from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, when he leaves his family. The English version is a copy of the Flemish one and was produced about 20 years later. The main differences are in details like the less sophisticated style of the Sheldon cushion cover and its much brighter colours. [27/03/2003]




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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