I do research on and recreate garments and objects from the past. My sources range from original items to photographs in books, periodicals, art works, literary references and period patterns. My research also involves the history of knitting needles and related implements.
The portrait in the corner is by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) of Elisabeth Alexeyevna (?), location and ownership unknown.
Serving Girl Knitting
Attributed to André Bouys (French, 1656–1740)
Oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 28 1/2 in. (92.1 x 72.4 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.211)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
I have written about this painting before (http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2008/03/knitting-in-art.html) I like the it very, very much, not only because of the knitting but for the details of 18th century clothing. The image of it from the Met’s site was, at that time, however, small and only available in black and white which not only did not let us clearly see the fabrics’ colors and textures but also hid the fourth needle from my eyes on my laptop’s small screen. T he current image from the Met's site, used here, is now much sharper. In an effort, though, a few years ago, to get what I hoped would be a better version of the image, I ordered an electronic version of the painting directly from the Met or, rather, the linked service which provides such things. I cannot legally use that image on this blog so the images here are, again, from the Met’s regular Internet site*, including the section showing the knitting.
The “ordered” image, although also in black and white, is, however, richer in the details of the painting. I can now see the beautiful cap and handkerchief of the sitter as well as a huge ball of wool on the table next to a basket containing a work bag with striped ribbons. Both of these items previously looked like food to me in the smaller image on the Met’s Internet site and I was wondering about that dangling thread from the table. With the zoom feature, I can get an even better look at them and hope to reproduce the work bag at some future time. I was also amused by the size of the ball of wool as it is larger than most in most paintings from that and the surrounding centuries.
Most exciting of all was the fourth needle. It lies against the girl’s inner arm where, thin and bent, in the smaller image, it had looked like a crease in her sleeve if it could be seen at all in that older image from the Met’s site. The girl has just started a new row with it so it is largely empty, perhaps only holding a few stitches which are covered by the hand clutching the knitting. What is, though, the curious curl at or near the end of the needle? A wrinkle in her clothing or something attached to her clothing – a part of something similar to a chatelaine?
Oh, dear – a needle found but another mystery, too.