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Needlework

Artist/Maker:
Dick, Elizabeth __Attributed to
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1808
Medium:
silk on silk, watercolor
Dimensions:
HOA: 13″; WOA; 15″
Accession Number:
5962.3
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Silk thread, watercolor, ink or graphite, and silver sequins on silk satin ground. The central image is surrounded by an oval frame composed of silver sequins and depicts a girl on the left and a boy with a robin on his out-stretched hand to her right. Just above the figures is a tree and beneath them is grassy ground (stitched in chenille). Their faces and arms are drawn with ink or graphite and probably tinted with watercolor. A stitched ivy vine surrounds the sequins; to either side of the central picture are floral sprays composed of pink roses and with varigated green leaves.

HISTORY: The scene depicted is from a children’s story that was popular in the 19th century, The Babes in the Wood also called The Children of the Wood. The story was thought to be first published as an anonymous broadside ballad, printed by Thomas Millington in Norwich, England, in 1595 with the title “The Norfolk gent his will and Testament and howe he Commytted the keepinge of his Children to his own brother whoe delte most wickedly with them and howe God plagued him for it”. The tale has been reworked in many forms in subsequent centuries.

The story tells of two small children left in the care of an uncle and aunt after their parents’ death. The uncle gives the children to ruffians to be killed because he is greedy for their inheritance. He tells his wife they are being sent to London for their upbringing. The murderers fall out and the “milder” of the two kills the other. He tells the children he will return with provisions, but they do not see him again. The children, wandering alone in the woods, die, and are covered by leaves by robins. Like many morality tales, the story continues with a description of the retribution befalling the uncle. In sanitized versions, the children are bodily taken to heaven or rescued and raised by an elderly woman. The story ends with a warning to those who have to take care of orphans and others’ children not to inflict God’s wrath upon themselves.

The use of silver sequins to frame a component of needlework is a technique more often seen at the Moravian girls’ boarding schools in Pennsylvania. The combination of these two charcateristics suggests that Eliza’s teacher at the Salem Girls’ Boarding School may have also taught at either the Bethlehem or Lititz Moravian Seminary for Girls. The subject of the needlework was also a popular one, particularly at the Lititz Seminary.The scene depicted in this needlework is also the subject of another needlework in the OSMG collection stitched by Mary Laura Springs around 1829 while she was a student at Salem Girls’ Boarding School. (Acc. 5092.1).

MAKER: Elizabeth Dick (1793-1845) was the daughter of Thomas and Jane (Erwin) Dick of Guilford County, North Carolina. Thomas was a merchant and a prominent political figure in Guilford County. Elizabeth attended Salem Girls’ Boarding school between December 1807 and July of 1808. In 1812, she married Andrew Lindsay (1786-1844) and the couple had nine children, six girls and three boys. The needlework picture descended in the family to the donor, who is a great-great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Dick Lindsay.

RELATED OBJECTS: See also a sampler partially worked by Elizabeth Dick and completed by her daughter Martha Emily Lindsay (Old Salem Acc. #5962.2), as well as a sampler by her daugher Mary Eliza Lindsay (MESDA Acc. # 5962.1).

Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift