Candace Wheeler (American, 18271923), for Associated Artists (New York City, 18831907)
Front: silk velvet and silk appliquéd and embroidered with silk and wool; back: silk damask; 115 x 45 in. (292.1 x 114.3 cm)
Purchase, Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation Gift, 2003 (2003.48)
The elegant portiere is the most recent addition to the Museum's collection of more than forty works by Candace Wheeler. It is a companion piece to a large embroidery given by her daughter Dora Wheeler Keith in 1928 (28.34.1), showing a field of purple and gold irises spangled with beaded dragonflies. That example and our new portiere, with its appliquéd and embroidered panel of purple and gold pansies dappled in sunlight and shadow, were exhibited together in a display by Wheeler and her new all-woman design firm, Associated Artists, in January 1884, at a benefit to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty.
One contemporary article described this portiere: "'The Pansy Bed' by Mrs. T. H. Wheeler, is a good example of distinctly original work both in design, color, and method. The effect is of a pansy bed in its greatest luxuriance of color, and shows how far towards realism and picturesqueness decorative work can be safely carried." The portiere has "A A" embroidered on one of the velvet panels, and "A A" is woven into the selvage of the gold silk-damask lining, which is patterned with interlacing columbines.