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


A fashionably dressed party of musicians is set against the backdrop of a carefully tended formal garden, with individual specimens separated in small plots so that each may be enjoyed for its singular beauty. Though unique among known embroidery pictures, the imagery of a formal garden populated by young merrymakers is not. Garden settings had been associated with romance since the Middle Ages, and a garden could also symbolize the fleeting pleasures of youth. In the Netherlands and Flanders, pictures of gatherings of young men and women, a genre known as the "Merry Company," were common, and the merrymakers were shown engaged in a variety of cultured leisure activities such as conversation, dancing, playing cards, and, of course, making music. The careful rendering of the garden may suggest an actual place, in the tradition of proud homeowners commissioning illustrations of their property.