"Paul and Virginia"
Origin: America, New England, Massachusetts (probably)
Overall (unframed H x W): 17 1/4 x 15in. (43.8 x 38.1cm)
Overall (framed H x W): 24 1/4 x 23in. (61.6 x 58.4cm)
Silk and chenille embroidery thread and paint on silk with applied transparent panels (mica?) in a gilded wood frame and eglomise mat
Gift of the John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, Fund, Inc., through the generosity and interest of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, and members of the family
Acc. No. 1979.601.5
This oval needlework picture shows three figures kneeling in a tropical setting in front of a church worked in silk embroidery, chenille embroidery, and paint.
The figure to the left, Paul, is a young man with shoulder-length, curly brown hair. He is shown kneeling on both knees with his hands together in prayer. His skin, hair, and open shirt are painted, while his coat and pants are stitched with cream and black thread. His hat, also stitched with cream and black thread is on the ground beside him. The next figure, the narrator, is an older man with long white hair. He is shown kneeling on one knee with his hands clasped over the other knee. His skin, hair, and shirt collar are painted while his clothes are stitched in cream and black thread. He is holding a walking stick that is also embroidered rather than painted. His hat, which is painted, is on the ground behind him. The third figure, the narrator’s slave, is an African shown kneeling on one knee with his hands clasped in front of his other knee. He is wearing a white shirt with a cream vest and blue pants. His skin, hair, and shirt are painted, as is the basket of supplies strapped onto his back. His canteen is embroidered. A dog stands in front of Paul with its head to the ground; it is entirely embroidered.
The scenery is worked in both silk and chenille threads, using primarily satin stitches with some French knots at the left and bottom right for added texture. One stem of bamboo grows behind the slave, and several palm trees surround the group. Bright fabrics and a basket of fruit hang from some of the trees. Paul is in front of a mission-style church stitched in cream thread with a painted door and cupola. One of the double doors is open. Above the doors is a small fresco showing two figures kneeling at the cross, all painted. The sky and some trees far in the background are painted. The rest of the scenery is embroidered.
The picture is under an eglomise mat with an oval opening. A band of gold encircles the opening, and gold compass rose stars are in each corner. Beneath the opening, an inscription reads, “PAUL; & VIRGINIA.” Beneath that, in fancy script, is, “Sarah V. Forster.” The piece is framed in a slightly rectangular gilded wood frame with molding and one line of roping.
STITCHES: French knot, satin
Label:Paul & Virginia, by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, tells the story of a boy and girl who grew up on Mauritius, away from the destructive influence of society. After a visit to France, Virginia, now corrupted by societal expectations, drowns when she refuses to take her dress off after falling overboard. This needlework scene shows Paul, who remains uncorrupted, moved to pray on what he does not realize is the very spot Virginia was buried. The narrator and the narrator’s slave, who accompany him are so moved by his piety that they kneel to pray as well. The novel was extremely popular, and scenes from it were rendered in virtually every medium.
Provenance:Made by Sarah Vose Forster, 1810-1825.
Obtained by Katrina Kipper, Accord, MA, 1935;
Purchased by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller for use in Bassett Hall;
Given to CWF, 1979.
MAKER HISTORY: Sarah Vose Forster was the daughter of Jacob Forster (1764-1838), a cabinetmaker, and Rebecca Vose Forster of Charlestown, MA. She married Charles Frederick Waldo (1783-1838) on August 6, 1817.
Mark(s):In gold on oval black eglomise mat: “PAUL; & VIRGINIA./Sara V. Forster”