Rare and exquisite textiles spanning more than 350 years and kept formerly at Hampton Court Palace are to be sold by Ewbank’s, Surrey’s premier auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The collection of hundreds of examples of embroidery, lace and needlework from the British Isles and overseas will be offered in Ewbank’s important Spring sale on March 26.
Ewbank’s textiles specialist Andrea Machen said: “We are thrilled to be bringing to market these historical items with such excellent provenance. It has been a privilege to catalogue them for this the first time they have been available for sale.”
The collection will be sold in around 100 lots, pick of which is a rare and early needlework box dating from about 1650. It is embroidered in silk and silvered thread with a formal decoration of flowers, fruit, scrolling leaves and tendrils, worked in silk stitches and couched silver thread on a yellow silk ground. The box is lined in red silk and stands on four carved and gilt enriched feet. It is estimated at £500-800.
A feature of the collection is a wide range of children’s embroidered samplers, some dating from as early as the 17th century. Most valuable is an 18th century example decorated with the Ten Commandments, a vase of flowers and a floral border. It is estimated at £200-300.
In addition to religious instruction, children completed samplers as part of their tuition in English and Arithmetic as well as teaching embroidery skills to a standard which belies their age, some as young as eight.
The intricacy of the work must have taken many hours, but the sale includes two by 13-year-old Sophia Richards, completed respectively in 1831 and 1835. More valuable of the two is worked in coloured silks with the epithet ‘How fast my fleeting minutes run!’ in a symmetrical design of figures, flowers and dove cotes. It is estimated at £100-150, while the other, embroidered with figures and a verse, is estimated at £80-120.
There are Royal connections to a number of lots, notably two sumptuous mid 19th century French embroidered silk drawstring handbags and a fine Indian wall hanging which were once the property of Queen Mary, who was known for her appreciation of needlework. The handbags, known as reticules, have a formal decoration of flowers and leaves in 18th century style, worked in different gold threads with flowerheads in relief and each with large gold tassel. They are together estimated at £300-500. The wall-hanging is hand-stitched in gilt thread with brocaded fabric, while seed pearls attached to its tassels add to its richness. It is estimated at £150-250.
Gentlemen’s attire of the 18th century could be as flamboyant as the gowns worn by courtly ladies. The sale includes three such examples, pick of which is an embroidered example dating from about 1780, the cream silk worked in a pink and green design of roses. It has embroidered buttons and lace trim and is estimated at £100-150.
An 18th century waistcoat embroidered in silk with sprays of flowers and set with steel beads is estimated at £80-120, while among European examples, a group of two Spanish embroidered silk waistcoats decorated in coloured silks with floral embroidery are together estimated at £100-150, as is an exotic 18th century Indian waistcoat with gold coloured silk flower embroidery and a panel with coloured and silver decoration.
The collection also includes 20 lots of fine handmade lace dating from the 17th to the early 20th century. In the past lace work was valued so highly that it was often used as a currency. English lace is particularly sought after by today’s collectors, notably that from Honiton, so a small group of pieces dating from around 1750 including a Bedfordshire cap and collars, cuffs, jabots and edging pieces from Northamptonshire as well as pieces from the Devon town is expected to sell for £150-250.
Another centre of renown for lace is Brussels. Two large 19th century pieces worked with floral sprays and a scrolled ribbon pattern, each measuring almost eight by three feet are together estimated at £200-300.
A William and Mary lace box with petit point top and side panels depicting a mythical beast in landscape is made of laburnum wood with parquetry inlay to its interior. It is estimated at £300-500.
Completing the collection are good examples of British and American quilts, one among the 10 on offer in true 1940s “make do and mend fashion”, and another dating from the late 18th or early 19th century, the silk worked in a diamond pattern. Estimates range from £50 to £250.
From other vendors, the sale also includes a fine wedding ensemble with photograph of the original owner on her wedding day. The outfit was worn by the vendor’s great grandmother, Nellie Spedden Hollidge, from Washington USA, who married Frank P Marshall of Lancaster New Hampshire USA in 1893. They were both employed in clothing retail and later had a dry goods business in Lancaster until Mr Marshall retired in 1930. The dress has been in the UK branch of the family ever since.
The fine corded cream silk dress has leg of mutton sleeves and lace collar and cuffs decorated with floral sprays, a glass beaded waist band with tassel front and comes complete with a pair of kid leather laced boots and silk stockings. It is estimated at £200-400.