Walter Crane Hanging - Carps
These two remarkable hangings designed by Walter Crane are of the most extraordinary quality embroidery. The embroidery of the Opus Anglicanum period in Britain comes to mind. I would imagine they were part of a set of hangings produced as room panels for a grand artistic house of the late 19th century. They are very similar in design to The Elements five fold screen, which Crane designed for the Royal School of Needlework and which the School exhibited on their stand at the Philadelphia International Exhibition of 1876. That screen's embroidery is much cruder, worked in crewel wools and is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.*
The embroidery on these two panels is far superior to anything that was achieved at the Royal School of Needlework. The RSN held classes for professional embroiderers, so it is quite possible that the design was worked by a trained RSN embroiderer working as a freelancer, who copied the Crane design and adapted it for her client. There were many woman who were capable of producing exquisite embroidery during this late 19th century period. William Morris's sister in law Bessie Burden, who was Janie's sister, worked for Morris & Comapny, but also worked for other institutions and was an instructor at the RSN. There were other gifted and competent women working for Morris, such as Catherine Holliday, wife of the painter and stained glass designer, Henry Holiday. Several convents in the country were renowned for their high quality embroidery. St Mary the Virgin, Wantage, Surrey produced both ecclesiastical and secular embroderies. They also taught classes with students who established their own workshops.**
The hangings are not exactly the same as those produced for the RSN. They do not have the amorini or monkey but do have a variety of birds. The second hanging, depicitng Cranes, has three toads or frogs holding up or peeping from under the central column also seen on the RSN screen. Also if you look at the red coiling pods in the Crane hanging these can be seen in Walter Crane's drawings (see photos). Often embroideries were adapted to suit a client's taste. The client might chose a design but want slight changes, such as the beautiful vase of peonies and the trellis border. Oriental influence so popular during the last quarter of the 19th century, during the Aesthetic Movement period, is present in these hangings. The peonies show Chinese influence and some of the smaller flowers, a Japanese influence. The quality of the embroidery is first rate and the subtle use of silks in shading is extraordinary. The cherries for instance have four shades of pink and peonies three shades. The Burden stitch**** is recognisable on the basket. The whole design has been hand inked onto to the silk.
Size: 10 ft 5 in x 4 ft 4 in; 3.3 x 1.32 m
Condition: This is in remarkable condition with some light brown spotting here and there mainly to the right hand side. There is a light brown stain 4 x 3 in; 10 x 7 cm to the lower right hand corner. Made into a curtain with modern dupion at the very top of the hanging. This could easily be unpicked and reinstated as a hanging. It also has fairly modern lining and interlining, which could easily be removed. On the turned undersides there are tack holes, wear and traces of brown glue from when the hanging was nailed to a wall as a panel. A little conservation required.