Thistlethwaite Americana | Schoolgirl Needlework and Watercolor Picture on Silk
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Schoolgirl Needlework and Watercolor Picture on Silk

Design and paintwork attributed to Samuel Follwell (1770-1824); Wrought by A. Sybella Lushett

The spandrel is inscribed: “A. SYBELLA LUSHETT, HER WORK, AUGUST 6th 1795/ BELCINA AND ROSINA. AUGUST 6th 1795″
Dated 1795

Silk, watercolor
20 in. high, 24 in. wide (including spandrel)

The characteristics of the delineation and composition within an oval panel suggest that this piece was drawn by the hand of Samuel Folwell (1764-1813) before being worked by A. Sybella Lushett. Folwell’s work is represented by a large group of silk embroideries worked in Philadelphia in the early 19th century, including allegorical pictures, literary vignettes, bucolic tableaux and family portraits. First advertising his services as a miniature painter, hair worker and engraver in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Packet of June 10, 1786, Folwell designed the composition and painted faces on silk to be embroidered by the young ladies enrolled at the school of Ann Elizabeth Folwell (1770-1824), his wife. For more examples of this collaboration, see Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch, “Samuel Folwell of Philadelphia: An Artist for the Needleworker,” The Magazine Antiques (February 1981), pp. 420-423; and Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850, vol. II (New York, 1993), pp. 178-383.

This picture depicts a scene from the opera Rosina, a comedy composed by William Shield (1748-1829) that was first performed in 1782 at Covent Garden, London. Similar to the story of Ruth and Boaz, the opera was likely the first use of the traditional Scottish melody “Auld Lang Syne.” Here, Mr. Belville sleeps under a tree while his romantic interest, Rosina, uses one of her ribbons to tie the tree branches together to shade him from the sun.