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Sailor's woolwork picture with a ship of the line and flags

Date: 1861 - 1918
Overall: 435 x 510 x 30 mm, 0.9 kg
Medium: Wool, linen, timber frame
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Woolwork picture
Object No: 00019057
Place Manufactured:England

User Terms

    A sailor's woolwork picture featuring a portrait of a ship-of-the-line in a central cartouche surmounted by a crown. Six flags (two Union Jacks, two white ensigns, one Italian and one French ensign) frame the image. Across the bottom of the image is a floral design encompassing red roses, lilies, shamrock and thistle patterns (representing respectively England, France, Ireland and Scotland).

    In the era of the sailing ships sailors often found pleasure in embroidery, to pass the time and often to make extra income. Their skill in mending sails carried over into the making of beautiful embroideries.

    SignificanceMany seamen were more than adept at sewing using multi-coloured silk threads to decorate sea bags and clothing, and with brightly dyed wools to produced woolwork ship portraits such as this.
    Pieces were popular in Great Britain throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    HistoryThe Italian flag to the right of the bark was in use from the time of the Kingdom of Savoy (1848-1861) and after Italian reunification resulting in the Kingdom of Italy (1861 to 1946) The Italian tri-color flag carried the royal coat of arms. The current Republic of Italy was declared in 1946 and adopted the Italian tri-color without the royal Coat of Arms.

    Embroidery such as this were a regular spare time activity of sailors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Combining the skills of needlework and the knowledge of things maritime, this is a fine example of the sailor's craft both merchant and naval.

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