Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Pillow cover

Pillow cover

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1592 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver-gilt threads

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Dr Nathaniel Sampson Lucas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 5

Object Type
In the 16th century a wide range of domestic furnishings and embroideries were used in rich households. This little cover with its symbols associated with love and marriage may have been used on the dressing table in the main bedchamber.

Materials & Making
This type of embroidery worked on an exposed linen ground was typical of the very large group of decorated towels, table and cupboard cloths, coverlets, pillows and dress accessories that are listed in inventories of the period. The group can be subdivided and this little cover represents a number of embroideries worked in multi-coloured silks, combined with metal thread and a wide range of stitches. These include detached buttonhole stitch, which gives a slightly three-dimensional effect. It was probably worked by the women of the household. The heraldic shield that commemorates the marriage was evidently worked by a different and less accomplished hand.

Ownership & Use
The cover was used as a commemorative item to celebrate the marriage of Bernard Grenville and Elizabeth Bevill in 1592. Bernard was the son of the naval hero Sir Richard Grenville (1541-1591), captain of the Revenge in an action against the Spanish. Wealthy families often included their heraldic shields on household items to display their noble status.

Physical description

Pillow cover of embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver-gilt threads in shades of pink, green, yellow, red, blue, mauve, cream and brown in stem, chain, detached buttonhole, double-running, satin, back, chain double chain, long-armed cross and Algerian eye stitches with padded trellis stitch, spider knots and a variety of lattice, spot and ermine filling stitches.

The cover is divided into a central area and a border. The centre is embroidered with a design of coiling stems enclosing grapes and roses with buds and tendrils. The border is divided by interlaced ribbons into a series of oval medallions, each containing a rather stiff upright floral sprig. In the top and bottom borders, from left to right, are pansy, carnation, marigold, borage, pansy and carnation. The two sides contain, from top to bottom, borage, marigold and pansy. The interlaced ribbons are embroidered with a series of mottoes alternately in English and a mixture of French and Latin.

In the centre is a large heraldic shield of Grenville impaling Bevill, commemorating the marriage of Bernard Grenville to Elizabeth Bevill in 1592.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1592 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver-gilt threads


Height: 66 cm mounted and padded, Width: 90 cm mounted and padded, Length: 35 in, Length: 88.9 cm, Width: 25.5 in, Width: 64.7 cm

Object history note

Embroidered in England

Descriptive line

Pillow cover of embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver-gilt threads, England, 1592

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The coat of arms on this cover represented the marriage of Elizabeth Bevill and Bernard Grenvill in 1592. The carnations, pansies and marigolds embroidered in the borders are symbols of love and fidelity. The cover was probably made by Elizabeth Bevill or the women of her household. [27/03/2003]


Household objects; Interiors; Embroidery; Textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.