Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Cabinet with personifications of the Five Senses, third quarter of 17th century
    English
    Satin worked with silk and metal thread, purl, chenille, seed pearls, coral beads, and mica; tent knots, rococo, satin, couching, and detached buttonhole stitches, knots; woven metal thread trim; silk and paper lining; 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 x 9 in. (14.6 x 19.1 x 22.9 cm)
    Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1929 (29.23.1)

    This small cabinet is fitted for writing instruments and has an unusual construction for an embroidered box—the fall-front door is on the shorter side. The interior is typical of seventeenth-century embroidered boxes—it is lined with bright salmon pink silk fabric and the drawers are edged with silver embossed paper.

    The cabinet is decorated with raised-work elements depicting the Five Senses personified by fashionably dressed women accompanied by symbolic creatures. Sight, with her companion eagle, graces the front of the cabinet; Smell and her dog are on the right side; Taste and a monkey are on the left; Touch with a tortoise is on the back; and the lid of the cabinet shows Hearing playing a lute, with a stag at her feet. The figure of Hearing may also represent the attribute of Harmony, both in music and in marital relations, as she is placed between two manor houses and two heraldic animals, perhaps signifying a marital union. These designs were probably based on Continental print sources, such as those engraved by Adriaen Collaert (56.597.41[2]).

    This work of art also appears on Connections: Touch

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  • Cabinet with personifications of the Five Senses, third quarter of 17th century
    English
    Satin worked with silk and metal thread, purl, chenille, seed pearls, coral beads, and mica; tent knots, rococo, satin, couching, and detached buttonhole stitches, knots; woven metal thread trim; silk and paper lining; 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 x 9 in. (14.6 x 19.1 x 22.9 cm)
    Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1929 (29.23.1)

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    Insects were often worked into the picture regardless of subject matter. Often bird feathers were incorporated into the embroidery to indicate the insect's body and/or feelers. Feathers are somewhat fragile and degrade more quickly than silk. Here most of the feathers have fallen away but some of the shafts and iridescent feather ends remain. The underdrawing is visible where the embroidery is missing.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    One of the most characteristic stitches of the period is the detached buttonhole stitch. A motif or design detail can be worked separately and attached to the foundation fabric giving a dimensionality to the composition. This minute cuff was worked separately and attached to the edge of the sleeve mimicking a lace edge and giving the figure an added roundness.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    This lute "key" is created with a short piece of silk purl and a seed purl.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    Most of the details of this figure were worked separately and assembled on the satin foundation fabric. Edges of the separately worked elements were incorporated into the picture in various ways. Here a red silk thread outlines the hand in a combination of laid and couched and whipped stitches. The black ink underdrawing is visible along in the fingers. The "strings" of the lute are silk wound around a silk core. Although one of the "strings" is damaged the silk remains tightly wound around the core.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The tower is created in detached buttonhole stitch with strands of white floss defining the shapes of the stones. Worked separately, it is attached to the foundation fabric along the sides with brown thread emphasizing the outline of the castle. A window represented by a piece of mica is held in place with "mullions" of silk thread.


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