An 18th Century Embroidered Coat of Arms

We are all  familiar with samplers embroidered by usually  young school girls in the 18th century, case  but did you know that wealthy New England schoolgirls often displayed their stitching skills by making elaborately embroidered coats of arms? I read an article yesterday about this embroidered piece, search thought to be from Boston, viagra and dated between 1790-1820. It is now in the collection of the Winterthur Museum, right here in Wilmington, Delaware! The surface of this beautiful piece is elaborately embroidered, but in one location the word “Gold” has been written, NOT embroidered, on the silk fabric, partly hidden between the shield and the garlands.

It is thought that this word, GOLD, was a color instruction for the embroiderer, and was provided by the artist that painted the design. Research done on these embroidered coat of arms suggests that designs were chosen from a book, then a sign painter or artist was paid to reproduce and transfer them to the fabric using paint. That word gold must have been exciting to find, don’t you think, considering so little is known about how the color instruction was given. The article went on to say that for this embroidered piece, the dark fabric was most likely a combination of lead white and gum water was used to transfer the design. This kind of paint is much denser than the embroidered threads used to cover the design.  In some cases a print or watercolor of the design might have been used. This appears to be the case in another coat of arms in the Winterthur collection, embroidered by Sally Putnam, which has a corresponding watercolor, apparently used for the color instruction. Isn’t it just amazing that they have survived in such beautiful condition?

X-radiographs were used and that process revealed that there was drawing on the fabric on the first shield I showed you. It gave color directions as well. The word gold was probably instruction for the shield, garlands or background area, where the writing was stitched. The x-radiographs also revealed thin metal strips woven into the selvedges that were thought to have been brown yarns. It is now known that these strips contain copper and zinc, which proves them to be brass. It is not known exactly what that means, but in the 15th century Italy, similar techniques were used to indicate where the cloth was woven, and it’s grade. This practice might have been carried into the 18th century. Isn’t modern technology wonderful!!



One Response to “An 18th Century Embroidered Coat of Arms”

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