Sunday, November 18, 2012

Unusual Artifacts: A Needlework Portrait by Mary Knowles, 1779

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In the post below, we discuss the needlework portraits and images of Miss Mary Linwood. However, Linwood wasn’t the only person recreating painted portraits in embroidery. This needlework picture, commissioned by Queen Charlotte (Consort of George V), in wool dates to 1779 and is the work of Mary Morris Knowles.

Mary Morris Knowles was born of a Quaker family in Rugely, Staffordshire, and was celebrated as much for her intellect as for her skill with the needle. Knowles is now considered to be an important early protagonist of the feminist viewpoint in English cultural life. Ahead of her time, Knowles was an early supporter for the abolition of slavery.

In 1771 Knowles was introduced Queen Charlotte at Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace), forming a friendship which would last over the next thirty years. Following that first visit in 1771, the Queen commissioned Mrs. Knowles to make a copy of Zoffany’s portrait of George III in needlework or ‘needle painting’ as it was also known.

So pleased with the result, Queen Charlotte showed off the portrait to all of her friends. Eight years later, Mrs. Knowles embroidered this companion picture for Queen Charlotte. It is a self portrait of the artist as she created the needle-painting of George III.

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