I have a confession. When I first started making reproduction dolls, I did so without ever seeing the antique dolls I was copying. Pictures of the dolls served as the standard to work from. Boy, did I get some surprises when I finally got to see the dolls in person.
It is amazing to do research into a subject, like 17th century embroidery, and study volumes of photographs of antique pieces. But pictures are no substitute for seeing the real thing.
Recently, Tricia Nguyen, who teaches my embroidery courses, posted on her blog that she found a 17th century embroidered mirror at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. I live very near DC and go to the National Gallery often, but had never seen the mirror.
Yesterday, DH and I went to find it. For those of you who plan a visit to DC, it is downstairs in the West (old) Building in Gallery G43, right next to the Garden Cafe. Let me know if you’re going. I would like to see it again. And again.
This was my first time seeing a nearly 400 year old embroidery in person and I learned many things.
I just acknowledged that photos aren’t the same, but they are what I have to offer you, along with my impressions and observations.
First of all, I didn’t realize until we were on the Metro going home that I forgot to take a picture of the whole mirror, so click here to go to Tricia’s blog and see her photo.
By necessity, the piece isn’t very brightly lighted. And the colors are very faded. So, I didn’t get that WOW feeling I sometimes get when I first see a special piece of art in person. But still, I was extremely impressed. It beautifully combines needlelace stumpwork and beadwork.
I stood and studied it for quite a long time (enough time for a guard to come and stand a few feet away and not leave). In that time, numerous people walked past, but only one or two slowed down to look and then walked on. It made me wonder if they would be impressed if they actually saw it.
Here are my photos, starting at center left and working counter-clockwise around the piece:
Love this lady’s dress. Her petticoat appears to be just be embroidered satin, not needle lace like so many are. There is french knot “dirt” under the door, over-twist or drizzle stitch grass on bottom right.
The leopard is all beadwork, the flower’s petals are so tiny.
I really studied the fountain because I’m doing one on my trinket box.
Mom (Mary?) has a beaded dress. Love the acorns on the oak tree with its beaded trunk.
Beautiful needle lace dress. She wears a tiny silver necklace.
Best lion ever! He really reminds me of the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz. Only, he’s braver.
The dog that chases this rabbit is on the other side of the mirror. So, he’ll never catch the bunny.
The house’s windows are mica.
I love the rough textured needlelace tree bark.
My trinket box will have a castle too.
Notice the beaded lace border.
I didn’t realize, until seeing the real thing, just how tiny some of the threads and stitches are. Also, the number of different stitches and uses of the different materials was overwhelming. It left me wondering at my temerity in thinking I can do this.
Sorry I didn’t take a tape measure to tell you the actual size of the mirror frame.
The only info provided by the Gallery was this notation next to it.
What was DH doing while I obsessed over the mirror? Sitting on a nearby bench and reading. I tried to point out the interesting stuff I saw to him, but he demurred… Our Embroidery Casket Tour to Scotland and England next fall will either get him more involved or push him over the brink.
After strolling around the Gallery, we had lunch outdoors at the the Sculpture Garden.
Our table overlooked this suggestive sculpture, entitled Personage Gothique, Oiseau-Eclair, done in the 1970’s by Joan Miro. It got a lot more views than the embroidered mirror did. Yes it looks like a giant vagina. It’s right across the street from the Archives building.