An object of outstanding beauty and exhibiting many talents, this quill work portrait of an attractive, elegant young woman is in the collection of Historic Deerfield (http://historic-deerfield.org). Created between 1700 and 1720, it features the use of silk, ink and paper.
This English portrait combines needlework, watercolor and other types of fashionable decorative treatments such as the gilt edged paper which was fashioned into to scrolls and tendriling leaves and flowers. This treatment mimics the elaborate gilt portrait frames of the era. Catching the parlor light this would have been a perfect Rococo centerpiece, displaying artistry and wealth.
The maker and the sitter are currently unknown, but given the level of skill shown throughout, it probably occupied a place of pride in the family’s treasures. Further, despite the artistic challenge presented by the nose, the visage of the sitter is meant to convey a delicate and genteel aura. She wears pearls at her neck, her hair is loose and uncovered. While the anatomical correctness is a bit “off”, her clothing certainly reflects the early decades of the 18th century: her mantua appears similar to the example below from the Victoria and Albert Museum, of pale blue silk brocade. Over her shoulders, is a voluminous (fur?) wrap, frequently seen in oil painting of the period.
This is a special find in a special gallery. “Celebrating the Fiber Arts” is a rotating, ongoing installation at Historic Deerfield (http://historic-deerfield.org)
|Courtesy, Victoria & Albert Museum|
Many thanks to Ned Lazaro, Collections Manager & Associate Curator of Textiles, for his ongoing assistance.
All images are courtesy of Historic Deerfield unless noted otherwise; photos by Kimberly Alexander