Lot 420
  • 420

An English embroidered allegorical portrait panel 17th century

6,000 - 8,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • silk, metal-thread and mica (transparent mineral)
  • Framed: 50cm. high, 60cm. wide; 1ft. 7in., 1ft. 11in., Textile visible: 42cm. high, 52cm. wide; 1ft. 4in., 1ft. 8in.
worked in polychrome silks and applied with chenille, metal-thread and mica highlights, on a satin ground, with central cartouche edged with relief laurel leaf wreath surround enclosing seated female within a river landscape, surrounded by birds, insects, lion and leopard on hillocky landscape and each corner with distinctive floral motifs of marigold, iris, tulip and anenome on small hills; mounted within later glazed frame


This panel is worked in silk threads on satin ground and has metal-thread, seed pearl and mica (transaprent mineral) highlights. The wreath surround to the central medallion is worked in relief. There are some visible small holes in the satin ground, near the insections, left and right of the main roundel and lower corners, and near the leopard, and marigold in the lower left corner. Faded colours overall. Overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

There was a great demand for rich materials and elaborately ornamented pieces and also a fascination in the natural world.  Pattern books emerged which had a great influence on design. An Italian, Federico Vinciolo published a pattern book, which due to popularity had to be constantly reprinted. European printers were all influenced by each other. In England illustrations in herbals were initially the source for inspiration, which later in the 17thcentury were supplied as patterns by the print sellers and merchants marked satin panels with the designs which could be purchased, worked by the embroiderer in the techniques and colours she desired, and then could be brought back to the merchant to be made up into the caskets which could be individualised to the requirements of the client with regard to the contents of the casket.

An extremely influential English book and print seller, was John Stent (born c.1615-1617) who had by 1662 accumulated the most extensive and diverse stock of engravings of any of his English competitors or predecessors, publishing at least 218 different plates of natural history subjects which were used by artists, teachers and embroiderers and were available at different prices, as broadsheets or as books including a three part work, A Book of Flowers Beasts, Birds and Fruits, in three parts, 20 leaves in each l’art. See Alexander Globe, Peter Stent London Bookseller Circa 1642-1665. Stent’s inventory included that of earlier engravers and printers, including Thomas Johnson’s work of 1530, and most importantly he was indebted to the four-part natural history work engraved by the German Jacob Hoefnagel, and designs by his father, printed in 1592, Stent also commissioned and used new designs by Wenceslaus Hollar, John Dunstall and John Payne and Johann Sibmacher all producers of pattern books. Many of the biblical embroideries derive from Continental designs and were based on Gerard de Jode’s compilation, Thesaurus Sacrarum Historiarium Veteris Testamenti, of 1585, which comprised of engravings by different artist and was used for wallpaintings, plasterwork, silver and textiles. Many of the English interpretations from the print designs of the distinctive needlework motifs are identiable and repeated in the distinctive style of the textile panels.

Beck, Thomasina, Gardening with Silk and Gold, A History of Gardens in Embroidery, Published by David and Charles, 1997, Chp.2 &4, Stuart & Georgian Gardens, pp.40-63 & pp.80-99, comprehensive discussion of the inspiration of garden design.
Brooks, Mary M, English Embroideries of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, in the Collection of the Ashmolean Museum, London, 2004, discussion on collectors, makers, sources and stitches, and illustrations of the specific pieces in the collection.
Morrall, Andrew and Watt, Melinda, English Embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1580-1700, `Twixt Art and Nature’, Yale University Press, for comprehensive discussion and illustration of the subject and techniques of embroidery and needlework used.
Synge, Synge, Art of Embroidery, History of Style and Technique, The Royal School of Needlework, London, 2001, Chapter Five, The Seventeenth Century, pp.110-159