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Antique Textiles

Memorial picture by Betsey Ann Slocum
American, ca. 1810
14.5 x 17 in. (36.8 x 43.2 cm); framed dimensions: 19 x 21.5 in. (48.25 x 53.3 cm)
Working within the tradition of embroidered memorial pictures, Betsey Ann Slocum—who inscribed her name in the upper right corner—used ink rather than needle and thread to create her “painting.” Many of the expected elements of an early nineteenth-century mourning picture, including grieving figures, an urn, a truncated column, and a weeping willow tree, appear in the scene. Like printwork memorials, which were embroidered in black silk to emulate engravings, here, the fine black lines inked on a white linen ground also suggest the engraved sources from which the imagery of these types of pictures was originally appropriated.

George Washington’s death in 1799 is believed to have been the impetus of countless mourning pictures made by American schoolgirls in the early nineteenth century, when the subject became a commonplace theme in American decorative arts. Although no names appear on the urn or column indicating a specific loss, Betsey Slocum’s picture captures the fashionable appeal of memorial imagery.

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