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Thorem Fruit Stencil

1820-1830
Origin: America, New England
10 1/2 x 13"
Paper with watercolor
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2005.310.3
Label:Although these stencils are not the ones used in the creation of The Full Basket (seen to the right), they were utilized in painting theorems of the same subject. The three stencils are not from a single set, but are individual pieces from different sets that vary slightly in composition. Period instruction manuals outlined the process for making stencils, and by 1835, ready-made stencils could be purchased from art instructors. Multiple sheets of prepared paper were used in theorem painting. The first piece was placed on top of a selected image, so that the design could be traced and the parts of the composition could be individually marked. Subsequent pieces were layered overtop of the tracing, one at a time, until all parts of the design were cut out. Great care was given to the creation of these patterns, which according to one author, if done correctly, would “last equal to 25–30 sketches.”

The paints used in creating theorems could likewise be made by hand or purchased. They include common pigments like Prussian blue, chrome greens and yellows, carmine (or red), as well as gum Arabic, a binder used in watercolor painting. Colonial Williamsburg’s stencils contain traces of several of these popular pigments.

For more information on how theorem stencils were used, please view the video on the wall to the left.
Provenance:Purchased at auction, Sotheby's NY, January 22, 2005, a sale of "The American Folk Art Collection of Jon and Rebecca Zoler." In the catalogue for this sale, the provenance listed for this stencil and its companions (2005.310.1 and 2005.310.2) is: "William Lary Antiques, Dublin, New Hampshire."