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Memorial Picture
Embroiderer:Embroidered by Sophia Ellsworth , American, 1794 - 1865
School:Attributed to Mary Balch's School , American, 1785 - 1831
Embroidery; silk thread, black watercolor, black ink on a satin-woven silk ground; glass, gilt and black paint, wood
Primary Dimensions (height x width of frame): 22 3/8 x 26 1/2in. (56.8 x 67.3cm)
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Gallery Copy: Sophia Ellsworth’s black-on-white technique is known as print-work, because it uses expensive needlework to imitate a less expensive print. Painted first in shades of black and gray, the fabric is worked with tiny seed stitches to imitate stippling, a technique used by etchers and engravers. The inscriptions are precisely stitched (not inked on pasted on paper), a painstaking technique characteristic of the prominent Balch School in Providence, Rhode Island. Despite the appearance of recent grief, the picture commemorates deaths when Sophia was an infant, in a place (Erie, Pennsylvania) she could hardly remember. The embroidered monuments of her father and two sisters were likely much more impressive than their actual gravesites, far away on a frontier and visited only in her imagination.
Description: Memorial picture worked in black silk thread and black watercolor and ink on a cream-colored satin-woven silk ground using seed stitch and other stitches; the mourning picture is labeled "SOPHIA ELLSWORTH/ 1812" and is in a gold-painted wooden frame. The picture shows two stone memorials, each at a slight angle to the other. The leftmost memorial consists of a low rectangular base supporting an obelisk and an urn. An embroidered inscription on the front of the base states "Sacred to the memory/ of/ Miss BETSEY A. ELLSWORTH/ who was born Dec. 24th, 1785/ and died July 26th, 1797/ And/ CHLOE ELLSWORTH,/ who was born March 18th, 1796/ and died July 22d, 1797". The rightmost memorial consists of a low rectangular base supporting an urn. An embroidered inscription on the front of the base states "Consecrated to the remains/ of/ Mr. DANIEL ELLSWORTH/ who departed this life/ March 3rd, 1798/ aged 39 years". In front of the two memorials, a girl in a black Empire-style dress is kneeling. The memorials are located beneath two trees in a landscape with trees and bushes. The silk ground is sewn to strips of linen at the edges; these are nailed to a wooden stretcher. The needlework is behind glass that is painted black at the edges; the name of the embroiderer and date are painted in gold at the bottom center. The gilded wooden frame (original) consists of two tiers of wavy molding separated by a recessed quarter round molding. Stitches: The primary stitch on the memorial picture is the seed stitch; it also includes the outline stitch. Additional elements of the picture are hand-painted with black watercolor and ink directly onto the ground. Condition: The back board and portions of the mount for the frame are replaced. Portions of the ground are wavy.
Subject Note: Sophia Ellsworth dedicated the monuments in the memorial picture to her father, Daniel Ellsworth (1757-1798) and her two sisters. After her father died, her widowed mother, Mary Abbott (1758-1835) married Ebenezer Scarboro and moved to Brooklyn, Connecticut, in February 1809.
Object Number: 1987.38.0
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