Musical Party in a Garden

Date: 1647

Culture: British

Medium: Canvas worked with silk thread; tent stitch

Dimensions: Overall: 13 3/4 x 21 1/4 in. (34.9 x 54 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Embroidered

Credit Line: Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964

Accession Number: 64.101.1314


While there is a long tradition of exceptional professional embroidery in England, domestic needlework attained a high point in the seventeenth century, when it was a requisite skill of accomplished young women. In addition to clothing and accessories, mirror frames, writing boxes, table covers, and pictures were decorated with embroidery. Prints served as sources for figures, flowers, and animals, which were drawn onto the fabric and given to the embroideresses. Frequently depicted themes include Old Testament stories, political subjects, allegories, and scenes of daily life. Musical Garden Party presents activities at a country house. In a formal garden, ladies perform for an appreciative male audience. By using fine-gauge canvas and silk threads, the embroideress was able to capture many fashion details such as feathered hats, lace trimming, and the floral pattern of a gown. Facial features, however, are left unembroidered. The hovering putto with bow and arrow hints at impending romance.