Southern Needlework Picture, ca. 1830

Value (2008) | $6,000 Auction$9,000 Auction

I found it in an estate sale in Birmingham and knew it was silk work of some type, but it just looked old.

Was it expensive?

No-- $200.

Did you notice at the bottom here how it looks like it's been patched?

I noticed that today.

Okay. It's someone who is really reaching to do something dramatic and have a large-scale picture, but the silk ground that this is worked on, they didn't have quite enough of it, so at the bottom they had to patch in some other little pieces, which they stitched in to extend that ground far enough. It's on silk ground, and it has silk needlework on it, as well as a good bit of watercolor. And part of the reason for doing that is it's quick. And it's a lot easier to paint the watercolor on there than to stitch all of the needlework. One thing to remember with this kind of needlework is these were very expensive. Just the silk and material alone was very expensive. A lot of these were worked by schoolgirls who were going to academies. So we've got the work here of a well-to-do young girl or perhaps a young woman. I would date this probably to the 1830s.


That's a period when you have a lot of morning scenes being painted. What is critical to this piece is that it is Southern. There are very few Southern needleworks that survive, for a number of reasons. First of all, the humidity and the bugs are very tough on silk like this. The light, all of that, degrades this sort of thing very badly. The Civil War, a lot of things have been destroyed. So we have a very small group of Southern needleworks of this period to look to as both comparables on the marketplace and in museums to help us pin down exactly where this was made. I think the great thing about this is it stands alone on its visual appeal. It's in outstanding condition. There's more research to be done, and I think what you learn is going to add to the value. Can we attribute this to a particular academy? Can we trace back through the family and put those pieces together? I would think at auction this would likely fetch $6,000 to $9,000. If you can attribute it to a specific academy and figure out some of the other pieces of the puzzle here, you might double that.

Double that... okay.

It's a rare and great object. Good.

Appraisal Details

Brunk Auctions
Asheville, NC
Appraised value (2008)
$6,000 Auction$9,000 Auction
Chattanooga, TN (July 19, 2008)

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