If you’re traveling this summer and you happen to make it to London – or, more accurately, to Oxford – after the first of August, and if you’re a 17th century embroidery fan, you’ll not want to miss The Eye of the Needle exhibit at the Ashmolean!
The photos used herein are of items that will be part of the exhibit – the photos are from the Ahsmolean’s press release, and should only be used with attribution.
The Eye of the Needle displays, for the first time in public, a selection of eye-catching, virtuoso seventeenth-century embroideries from the internationally renowned Feller Collection, together with outstanding examples from the Ashmolean’s own holdings. The exhibition explores the context in which these technically exacting works were made by girls and young women at home or school, and what they reveal of the society, economy, and culture of seventeenth-century England.
Needless to say, for the 17th-century-embroidery enthusiast, this exhibition promises to be a tremendous treat!
The Eye of the Needle displays embroideries which include colourful raised and flat work pictorial panels, fine white and polychrome samples, household items such as boxes and cushions, and dress accessories including caps, coifs, and gloves. This highly feminine embroidery shows visual delight in complex surfaces created through individual use of stitches, colourful silks, metal threads, pearls and semi-precious stones. The use of expensive, luxury materials connects the embroideries with trade, with some pieces depicting symbolic figures of a wider world.
If I could, I’d go – just to see this fellow! This 17th century frog purse, barely three inches in length, was made from leather, silk, and metal threads on silk.
For some reason, frog purses were a Big Thing in 17th century England. I don’t know why they were All the Reptile Rage, but perhaps someone else out there does and can educate us?
I’m sure there’s some sort of reason behind the fad – something beyond the fact that frogs are sort of cute, in a green-and-brown-and-slimy sort of way.
I would imagine these little purses were more for ornament than anything else. Something this small and amphibious would make a delightful, whimsical little accessory floating about on a farthingale.
Hmmm… Frog on a Farthingale…Someone should write a poem!
(Between you and me, I’ve always had a secret little desire to make one…)
The Eye of the Needle: English Embroideries from the Feller Collection will be on exhibit at the Ashmolean from August 1 through October 12 this year.
And if you can make a little space for me in your luggage, you can even take me with you…