Susannah and the Elders

Embroidered picture 'Susannah and the Elders', England, c. 1660. Embroidered picture 'Susannah and the Elders', England, c. 1660. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.50-1954.

Susannah and the Elders is the name given to an embroidered picture from England dating to around 1660 that is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It measures 46 x 56 cm. It is made of a silk satin background material embroidered with coloured silk threads and metal purl. The oval frame consists of parchment wrapped in silk.

The picture of Susannah and the Elders is placed in the padded oval in the centre. The oval is surrounded by foliage and animal motives. The stitches used for the embroidery are the back stitch, long and short stitch, and the split stitich. There is also detached darning and couched work, and use is made of French knots.

The story of Susannah and the Elders is found in the (Biblical) so-called Apocrypha. It refers to two newly appointed Elders who lust after the beautiful Susannah, who is a faithful wife. When she refuses to give in to their demands, she is accused of adultery by the same Elders and condemned to death. She is eventually saved. In this embroidered picture, Susannah is shown being dressed, rather than being naked as in many other representations of the same story. This might suggest a female embroideress.

The oval wreath frame of parchment wrapped in silk recalls that of the jewellery case embroidered by Martha Edlin, dated 1673. The style and design of the decoration have been attributed by some specialists to the workshop of John Nelham.

The embroidery was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1954 by Sir Frederick Richmond.

Source: BAKER, Malcolm and Brenda RICHARDSON (eds., 1997). A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1997.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 26 June 2016).


The picture


Last modified on Saturday, 28 January 2017 10:17
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