Skip navigation
St. James the Great.
1776-1780
Embroiderer:Attributed to Prudence Punderson , American, 1758 - 1784
Embroidery; silk thread and ink on a plain-woven silk ground
Primary Dimensions (height x width of ground): 8 3/4 x 8 1/4in. (22.2 x 21cm) Mount (height x width): 9 1/2 x 8 1/2in. (24.1 x 21.6cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Newton C. Brainard
Gallery Copy: The subject matter of this series is unique in early American needlework. Each picture depicts one of the twelve Christian apostles, accompanied by one or more of his traditional symbols and a caption describing his manner of death. These grim captions contrast starkly with the pleasant landscapes, bright flowers, and engaging animals that evoke a Garden of Eden. The subject matter likely relates to the Punderson family’s adherence to the Church of England, an unpopular choice in overwhelmingly Congregational colonial Connecticut. The stitches are executed with great precision and ingenuity on fine silk, and convey muscles, drapery, feathers, wood grain, and wool. The facial expressions are more individualized than was generally attempted or achieved in early American embroidery.
Description: Needlework picture worked in black, dark green, dark, medium and light brown brown, light, dark and medium blue, red, yellow and white silk threads on a plain-woven gold silk ground, using a surface satin stitch and other stitches. At the bottom is a hand-written inscription in black ink: "St. James the Great/ He was beheaded at Jerusalem." This is one of a group of twelve silk needlework pictures; each depicts an apostle and has an ink inscription at the bottom with the name of the apostle. The needlework picture is rectangular, oriented vertically. It shows a man in profile standing on a shore looking out to sea. He wears a black hat with a wide brim, a long black robe, or banyan, and has a staff in his right hand. At this feet is a swan with partially outstretched wings. At sea is a sailing vessel with three masts and a flag. The sky has several fluffy clouds. The edges of the needlework are whip-stitched. The picture is hand-drawn with black and red ink directly on the ground then embroidered in untwisted silk and Z-spun single ply silk thread. Just above the bottom edge of the needlework is a line of holes from stitches that were removed. The ground has 112 yarns per inch in the warp and 80 yarns per inch in the weft. Stitches: The principal stitch is the surface satin stitch; it also includes satin, stem, and running stitches. Condition: There is some fading to the ground and embroidery. The needlework picture has been cleaned gently then stitched to a plain-woven cotton support fabric applied to a rigid mount. The picture is not framed.
Subject Note: James the Great, also known as James the son of Zebedee, is listed in Matthew 10:2-4 as one of the twelve apostles. James's death is described in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (written and published about 1560): "James the Great... was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John [the Evangelist], and a relative of our Lord... as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time." James the Great is often depicted holding a pilgrim's staff, wearing a pilgrim's broad-brimmed hat and cloak. His special attribute is a scallop shell. (Source: James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art.) Source Note: Some elements of the needlework pictures of the Twelve Apostles (1962.28.3a-l) are taken from The Artist's Vade Mecum (published in London, 1776).
Inscription: At the bottom is a hand-written inscription in black ink: "St. James the Great/ He was beheaded at Jerusalem."
Object Number: 1962.28.3i
Not Currently on View
Send to a Friend