Needlework picture (Silkwork picture)

  • Category:

    Textiles (Needlework)

  • Creator (Role):

    Nancy Ann Carlisle (Possible maker)

    Ann Marsh (Possible school)

  • Place of Origin:

    Sussex, Delaware, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

  • Secondary Place of Origin:

    Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

  • Date:

    1690-1740

  • Materials:

    Silk; Metallic thread

  • Techniques:

    Embroidered, Woven (satin)

  • Museum Object Number:

    1953.0152.007 A


  • Complete Details



Object Number

1953.0152.007 A

Object Name

Needlework picture (Silkwork picture)

Category

Textiles (Needlework)

Credit Line/Donor

Museum purchase with funds provided by Lammot du Pont Copeland

Creator (Role)

Nancy Ann Carlisle (Possible maker)
Previously attributed to Anne Carlisle of Leesburg, New Jersey, 1700-1730, according to family tradition. There are no records for an Anne Carlisle in Leesburg, NJ, which had not been established as a town until 1795, many decades after the making of this picture. Research reveals that there was a Carlisle family established in Sussex County, Delaware in the 1600's. However, Sussex County, DE, was a wilderness in the early 18th century, and it is more likely that this elaborate and complexly sophisticated piece was made by a girl from the well-to-do Carlisle family while attending a school in nearby Philadelphia. More specifically, it is possible that the maker of this picture is an undocumented daughter of the affluent Thomas Carlisle (b. 1685) and Mary Pemberton (born c. 1690) named "Nancy Ann" (a traditional Carlisle family name, often shortened to "Ann"). The Pemberton genealogy points out that there is a generation of sparsely documented Carlisle children, especially those of Thomas and Mary Carlisle. Although unsupported by genealogical records, it is certainly possible that this generation included a Nancy Ann, and that she was born sometime as early as 1705 (before which Mary Pemberton was not married) but not later than 1737 (when Thomas Carlisle may have died, and after which Mary Pemberton was likely past child-bearing age.) The most significant finding of the research is that there are no records to corroborate a New Jersey origin for this picture. In spite of its similarities to English 17th-century needlework, there are many physical features that support a Philadelphia origin. First, there is the mount, which consists of laces strung through drill holes around the perimeter of the cedar backboard. This treatment strongly represents Sara Wistar's picture mounts, created while at the school of Ann and Elizabeth Marsh in Philadelphia. Even without a positive determination, the mount on this picture can be placed more generally with origins in the Mid-Atlantic region. Secondly, several design features are characteristic of Philadelphia works, especially those of the Marsh school. The sun and it's cheerful wavy rays, with a face peeking out from rainbow-striped clouds, the 5 - 6 petaled flowers, the animals, birds and butterflies, are all motifs that are present in other examples, with only slight variations from piece to piece. (The appearance of the Northern cardinal further supports a colonial American rather than an English origin.) Lastly, the expert execution and complexity of the picture and subject matter clearly point to creation in an urban school. For further information, please see object file in Registration for student paper by Emelie Gevalt, dated May 5, 2016, Spring Textile Block, "From England to Philadelphia: Distinguishing Influences from Origins in a Silkwork Picture." (RGW, 05/23/2016)

Ann Marsh (Possible school)
November 7, 1714-1797
Ann Marsh was born in Worcester County, England on November 7, 1717 to Joseph Marsh, a skinner and glover, and Elizabeth Allibone (August 1,1683 - c. 1741). Ann was one of four children. Her mother was already an experience schoolmistress before the family left for America. Presumably Elizabeth came to Philadelphia in the spring or summer of 1723. Ann herself may have been taught by Amy Lewis, or more likely, by her mother. Ann remained single, and alongside her mother, she taught needlework to the daughters of prominent Philadelphians. Elizabeth Marsh was the schoolmistress who established the trends in Philadelphia's elegant schoolgirl embroidery, and her daughter Ann maintained them. Ann taught school in Philadelphia until at least 1792. Ann died in 1797. Needlework historians consider Elizabeth and Ann Marsh to be the most important of all American instructresses. (Ring, Betty. Girlhood Embroidery, Vol. II, pp. 328-337.)

Place of Origin

Sussex, Delaware, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

Origin Notes

Possible home of maker.

Secondary Place of Origin

Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

Secondary Origin Notes

This silkwork picture was possibly worked at Ann and Elizabeth Marsh's school in Philadelphia.

Date

1690-1740

Subjects

Biblical scene

Materials

Silk; Metallic thread

Techniques

Embroidered, Woven (satin)

Construction Description

Hand-embroidered

Dimensions (inches)

15 (L) , 21.5 (W)

Dimensions (centimeters)

38.1 (L) , 54.61 (W)

Measurement Notes

Dimensions refer to area of needlework visible within frame.

Object Description

Web - 06/10/2014

This needlework picture, likely representing the biblical story of Isaac meeting his wife-to-be, Rebecca, is executed here in a somewhat lively interpretation with bright, cheerful colors, bold, expressive lines, and fanciful figures. In the story, Rebecca was given a choice in selecting her mate. This would have been an appealing concept to the young needleworker in Colonial America, who was likely on the verge of marriage and hopeful for a promising future. No specific design source has been found to link this scene to a documented illustration of the biblical couple, and the figures have postures and gestures typical of a generic courting couple. The well, jug, parasol, and veil, symbols found in other representations of Rebecca, are not found in this scene, yet the presence of the turrets, the tents, and the of the camel (within the scene instead of within a border) suggest that this is a depiction of the the bible story. This design is stylistically similar to English works, but has some distinctive American characteristics, particularly those associated with examples from Philadelphia.

Bibliography and Bibliographic Notes

[Article] Gevalt, Emelie. 2016 Traces of Philadelphia in an Early Silkwork Picture. Antiques and Fine Art. (Winter 2016): 173 - 175.
Published: p. 173