Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Home Beautiful: The Cockatoo Fire Screen, c. 1850

Fire Screen of Berlin Woolwork
English, 1847
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This beauty is a masterful example of the popular embroidery technique of “Berlin Woolwork,” so-called because the first printed patterns and dyed wools came from Berlin. Berlin Woolwork was fashionable in Britain between 1830 and the 1870s. Patterns for these pieces were sold individually, or, they could be purchased as kits with the required wools. By 1847, fourteen thousand different Berlin Woolwork patterns were available to consumers in Britain.

This fire screen panel is created of Berlin Woolwork on a taupe linen canvas. The embroidered scene depicts a sulphur-crested cockatoo (a bird from Australia) perched atop a tipped basket overflowing with flowers. A garden background sets the scene with elegant statuary and trees. The background, however, is remains un-worked.

The person responsible for working the scene has shown incredible skill, and has created a sense of realism with the use of plush stitch for the plumage of the cockatoo and cross-stitch in other places for additional texture. The Woolwork was used for a fire screen. The whole piece was assembled in the early 1850s.

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