Skip navigation
Pitkin Family Coat of Arms
about 1750-1755
Embroiderer:Attributed to Jerusha Pitkin , American, 1736 - 1800
Hand-stitched silk and metallic thread; satin-woven silk; plain-woven linen; paint; wood; steel
Primary Dimensions (height x width): 25 1/4 x 25 1/4in. (64.1 x 64.1cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Jane W. Stone
Gallery Copy: With the finely stitched rampant lion as tantalizing evidence of what might have been, this unfinished work, still tacked to its embroidery frame, offers an extremely rare glimpse of the methods and materials used to make fashionable needlework. Original rolled-head pins remain in the linen strips, but the still-threaded needle, and some stitching, is of later vintage. This suggests that descendants attempted (unsuccessfully) to finish the ambitious work. The outline for the design was drawn on the silk in white paint, likely by a professional pattern drawer or teacher. However, colors and shading were left to the artistry and skill of student and teacher. The more than eighty sticks of unused silk that accompany this embroidery, some in their original paper wrappers, are especially rare survivors.
Description: Unfinished Coat of Arms worked in shades of red, pink, brown, and green silk and silver metallic thread on a black satin-woven silk ground, using a shaded satin stitch and other stitches. The coat of arms is on point inside a square piece of black silk. The coat of arms consists of a shield with a rampant lion and helmet above. The shield is divided with a diagonal band; two stars are separated by a circle on the band. Collared and chained swans are drawn at two of the four corners of the shield. The shield is flanked by scrolled leaves; a banner is at the bottom. The unfinished portions of the coat of arms are outlined in white paint. The ground is whip-stitched to plain-woven linen backing and nailed to a wooden embroidery frame. The wooden frame is constructed of four rails, each with a lap joint at the end that is secured with a removable wooden pin. A later steel needle and thread are attached to the black satin. Several hands worked on this coat of arms, probably over several generations. The sampler is accompanied by unused materials for making the coat of arms: 81 skeins of silk thread wrapped in paper, some with printed text; 3 round bundles of silk floss, in white, pink and salmon; 3 twisted bundles, or sticks, of silk floss in cream, gold and bronze; 6 lengths of metallic thread wrapped around a wooden reel or paper; 3 nails; several needles left in the skeins. The unused skeins of silk were originally wrapped in plain gray paper and tied together in groups by color. The used skeins were rewrapped in blank, hand-written or printed paper. Two of the silk skeins were wrapped in paper with a hand-written letter in black ink (see text entry); one letter is dated "Boston July the 4". Some of the papers used to wrap the silk contain printed Latin and English text. A later paper has a hand-written pencil inscription of "To protect the enclosed silk/ This paper placed in the/ package by Mrs. William Lee/ July 15th 1897". Stitches: The principal stitch on the sampler is the long and short stitch; it also includes encroaching satin, couching, and whip stitches. Condition: The ground has split and worn at several areas at the center of the coat of arms. The top of the needlework has some discoloration of the silk, probably caused by water damage. The coat of arms has an archival mount. Immediately behind the coat of arms is a black cotton-lined support. The wooden frame is attached to a lined aluminum panel.
Historical Note: This coat of arms is unfinished and is still tacked to the embroidery frame on which it was worked. Since it features the arms of her birth family, it is presumed that Jerusha Pitkin began working on it sometime before her marriage in 1760.
Inscription: Two of the silk skeins were wrapped in paper with a hand-written letter in black ink (see text entry); one letter is dated "Boston July the 4". Some of the papers used to wrap the silk contain printed Latin and English text. A later paper has a hand-written pencil inscription of "To protect the enclosed silk/ This paper placed in the/ package by Mrs. William Lee/ July 15th 1897".
Object Number: 1935.10.1
Not Currently on View
Send to a Friend