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St. Thomas
1776-1780
Embroiderer:Attributed to Prudence Punderson , American, 1758 - 1784
Embroidery; silk thread, floss and ink on a plain-woven silk ground
Primary Dimensions (height x width of ground): 9 5/16 x 8 3/8in. (23.7 x 21.3cm) 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, brown, green, blue, pink, red, and cream silk threads on a plain-woven gold silk ground, using a surface statin stitch and other stitches. At the bottom is a hand-written inscription in black ink: "St. Thomas/ Was thrust through with A Lance". 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 and a description of their death. The needlework picture is rectangular, oriented vertically. It shows a man sitting on a wooden side chair; the chair has a yoke-shaped crest rail, a vase-shaped splat and turned stretchers. The man is wearing a tan hat with a wide brim and a long black robe, or banyan. He is carrying a spear vertically in his left hand; his right arm is propped on a trestle table that also holds a book. The man is seated between two trees with white blossoms. Three birds fly above, near the trees. A dog with a collar is standing at the base of the rightmost tree. The selvedge is located at the right edge of the ground. All four edges of the needlework are whip-stitched. The picture is hand-drawn with black and red ink and embroidered in untwisted silk thread and floss. 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 some free-form 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: Thomas, popularly known as Doubting Thomas, is listed in Matthew 10:2-4 as one of the twelve apostles. Thomas's death is described in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (written and published about 1560): "Thomas. Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear." He is often shown carrying a spear, the instrument of his martyrdom. (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. Thomas/ Was thrust through with A Lance".
Object Number: 1962.28.3g
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