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wood's Exhibition" used to be one of the lions of London, and fully deserves to be so now. To women it must always be an interesting sight; and the nobler gender" cannot but consider it as a curious one, and not unworthy even of their notice as an achievement of art. Many of these pictures are most beautiful; and it is not without great difficulty that you can assure yourself that they are bona fide needlework. Full demonstration, however, is given you by the facility of close approach to some of the pieces.
Perhaps the most beautiful of the whole collection -a collection consisting of nearly a hundred pieces of all sizes-is the picture of Miss Linwood herself, copied from a painting by Russell, taken in about her nineteenth year. She must have been a beautiful creature; and as to this copy being done with a needle and worsted,-nobody would suppose such a thing. It is a perfect painting. In the catalogue which accompanies these works she refers to her own portrait with the somewhat touching expression, (from Shakspeare,)
"Have I lived thus long
This lady is now in her eighty-fifth year. Her life has been devoted to the pursuit of which she has given so many beautiful testimonies. She had wrought two or three pieces before she reached her twentieth year; and her last piece, "The Judgment of Cain," which occupied her ten years, was finished in her seventy-fifth year; since when, the failure of her eyesight has put an end to her labours.
The pieces are worked not on canvas, nor, we are
told, on linen, but on some peculiar fabric made purposely for her. Her worsteds have all been dyed under her own superintendence, and it is said the only relief she has ever had in the manual labour was in having an assistant to thread her needles.
Some of the pieces after Gainsborough are admirable; but perhaps Miss Linwood will consider her greatest triumph to be in her copy of Carlo Dolci's Salvator Mundi," for which she has been offered, and has refused, three thousand guineas.
The style of modern embroidery, now so fashionable, from the Berlin patterns, dates from the commencement of the present century. About the year 1804-5, a print-seller in Berlin, named Philipson, published the first coloured design, on checked paper, for needlework. In 1810, Madame Wittich, who, being a very accomplished embroideress, perceived the great extension of which this branch of trade was capable, induced her husband, a book and printseller of Berlin, to engage in it with spirit. From that period the trade has gone on rapidly increasing, though within the last six years the progression has been infinitely more rapid than it had previously been, owing to the number of new publishers who have engaged in the trade. By leading houses up to the commencement of the year 1840, there have been no less than fourteen thousand copper-plate designs published.
In the scale of consumption, and, consequently, by a fair inference in the quantity of needlework done, Germany stands first; then Russia, England, France, America, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, &c.,
the three first names on the list being by far the largest consumers. It is difficult to state with precision the number of persons employed to colour these plates, but a principal manufacturer estimates them as upwards of twelve hundred, chiefly
At first these patterns were chiefly copied in silk, then in beads, and lastly in dyed wools; the latter more especially, since the Germans have themselves succeeded in producing those beautiful “Zephyr” yarns known in this country as the "Berlin wools." These yarns, however, are only dyed in Berlin, being manufactured at Gotha. It is not many years since the Germans drew all their fine woollen yarns from this country: now they are the exporters, and probably will so remain, whatever be the quality of the wool produced in England, until the art of dyeing be as well understood and as scientifically practised.
Of the fourteen thousand Berlin patterns which have been published, scarely one-half are moderately good; and all the best which they have produced latterly are copied from English and French prints. Contemplating the improvement that will probably ere long take place in these patterns, needlework may be said to be yet in its infancy.
The improvement, however, must not be confined to the Berlin designers: the taste of the consumer, the public taste must also advance before needlework shall assume that approximation to art which is so desirable, and not perhaps now, with modern facilities, difficult of attainment. Hitherto the chief anxiety seems to have been to produce a glare of
colour rather than that subdued but beautiful effect which makes of every piece issuing from the Gobelins a perfect picture, wrought by different means, it is true, but with the very same materials.
The Berlin publishers cannot be made to understand this; for, when they have a good design to copy from, they mar all by the introduction of some adventitious frippery, as in the "Bolton Abbey, where the repose and beautiful effect of the picture is destroyed by the introduction of a bright sky, and straggling bushes of lively green, just where the Artist had thought it necessary to depict the stillness of the inner court of the Monastery, with its solemn grey walls, as a relief to the figures in the foreground.
Many ladies of rank in Germany add to their pin-money by executing needlework for the warehouses.
France consumes comparatively but few Berlin patterns. The French ladies persevere in the practice of working on drawings previously traced on the canvas: the consequence is that, notwithstanding their general skill and assiduity, good work is often wasted on that which cannot produce an artist-like effect. They are, however, by far the best embroideresses in chenille,—silk and gold. By embroidery we mean that which is done on a solid ground, as silk or cloth.
The tapestry or canvas-work is now thoroughly understood in this country; and by the help of the Berlin patterns more good things are produced here as articles of furniture than in France.
The present mode of furnishing houses is fa
vourable to needlework. At a time when fashion enacted that all the sofas and chairs of an apartment should match, the completely furnishing it with needlework (as so many in France have been) was the constant occupation of a whole family-mother, daughters, cousins, and servants-for years, and must indeed have been completely wearisome; but a cushion, a screen, or an odd chair, is soon accomplished, and at once takes its place among the many odd-shaped articles of furniture which are now found in a fashionable saloon.
Francfort-on-the-Maine is much busying itself just now with needlework. The commenced works imported from this city are made up partly from Berlin patterns, and partly from fanciful combinations; but although generally speaking well worked, they are too complicated to be easy of execution, and very few indeed of those brought to this country are ever finished by the purchaser.
The history of the progress of the modern tapestryneedlework in this country is brief. Until the year 1831, the Berlin patterns were known to very few persons, and used by fewer persons still. They had for some time been imported by Ackermann and some others, but in very small numbers indeed. In the year 1831, they, for the first time, fell under the notice of Mr. Wilks, Regent-street, (to whose kindness I am indebted for the valuable information on the Berlin patterns given above,) and he immediately purchased all the good designs he could procure, and also made large purchases both of patterns and working materials direct from Berlin, and thus laid the foundation of the trade in England.