Richmond, Sir Frederick Henry (1873-1953)

Sir Frederick Henry Richmond, 1873-1953. Sir Frederick Henry Richmond, 1873-1953. National Portrait Gallery, acc. no. NPG x91133.

Sir Frederick Henry Richmond was chairman of the department stores Debenhams and Harvey Nichol's, and made baronet in 1929. His son John Frederick Richmond (1924-2000) inherited the title, which became in fact extinct upon his death.

A catalogue of much of the needlework collected by Frederick Richmond was published by Christie's in 2001 for an auction in June 2001, and another auction (63 pieces) took place on 2 March 2011 at Bonhams, London. Sir Frederick Richmond started collecting needlework in 1907. Upon his death in 1953 the collection was divided among his two children, while some items were bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum (including a pin cushion and purse and an embroidered cushion with a depiction of Susannah and the Elders).

The collection auctioned in 2001 and 2011 included some astounding pieces, such as a seventeenth century needlework casket, which opens to reveal a garden of pressed silk. Magnolia, gillyflowers, pears and strawberries grow from a green featherwork lawn set with a woollen path. Caskets were worked panel by panel on one or several pieces of white satin with green thread woven into the selvedge. They were arranged on the satin so as to waste as little of the material as possible. The lid is embroidered in coloured silks depicting the Judgement of Paris and the back is worked with a lady dining with two gentlemen. The casket dates from the mid-seventeenth century.

There is also a needlework mirror from c. 1660, with folding shutters designed to celebrate the founding of the Province of Carolina in 1663; a needlework mirror depicting the four continents (America, Asia, Africa and Europe), which dates to 1660; a needlework panel featuring Charles II as Mars and Queen Catherine of Braganza as Venus, dated after 1662; a seventeenth century needlework picture of King David and Bathsheba; and a mid-seventeenth century beadwork basket.

There is also a beautifully embroidered lady's coif from 1610. Coifs were worn by ladies indoors as semi-formal dress or for receiving visitors when in bed. The floral motifs afre rich with symbolic meaning. The pansy represents kind thoughts. Honeysuckle is the emblem of affection and faithfulness. The cherry, which is the fruit of paradise, represents heaven.

In the collection there are three seventeenth century coloured samplers. One is dated 1668 and includes the name of the embroideress, Elizabeth Spicer. Another has figures known as boxers, which is a term derived from a motif of a lover offering a flower to his lady, found in many sixteenth century pattern books. A more pictorial sampler dates from the eighteenth century. It depicts a fountain within a landscape flanked by two shepherdesses. 

Finally, Sir Frederick Richmond's collection included a set of six panels worked in crewelwork, by Elizabeth Seward, dating between 1721 and 1724. They are worked with fashionable Chinese blue and white vases and with Elizabeth's Seward's initials and her husband's coat of arms.

For the auction in 2001, click here; for the auction in 2011, click here (retrieved 2 July 2016).

Compare King Charles II and Queen Catherine of Braganza embroidered cushion.

National Portrait Gallery online catalogue (retrieved 2 July 2016).




Last modified on Sunday, 02 October 2016 19:05