Romantic Domestic Scene
31" x 25"
Made in England in the 19th century, this needlepoint work, likely woven in wool against a linen canvas, is not only beautiful but communicative of cultural trends and ideologies of its time. The ovular central scene depicts an affluent man and woman dressed in Tudor garb and sitting before a fireplace, framed by colourful stylized leaves and tendrils. The figure of the woman gestures beyond the window where the man casts his gaze - details made clear through the application of patches of another fabric (likely silk) for the hands and heads of the figures. The historicized dress and actions of the figures constitute a secular and romantic image which would have greatly appealed to Victorian sensibilities. The impacts of the Industrial Revolution moved Victorian hearts and minds to search for an escape and ways to cope with social and political changes. This largely came in the form of looking back to an idealized English past. Victorian medievalism and nostalgia inspired music, literature, social ideologies, art, neo-Gothic architecture, and much more. This nostalgic influence also infiltrated the domestic sphere which is further suggested by this object: the shape and size indicate that it may have functioned as a fire screen, which was both a decorative and functional object in the Victorian home.
At this time in England, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851) began writing the story that would become the novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus in 1816, while on vacation with her lover/future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), and their friend Lord Byron (1788–1824) at Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Byron proposed that they each write their own ghost story as a form of entertainment, leading the then-18 year old Mary to begin conceiving of her famous monster. The first edition of the novel was published anonymously in 1818, and is argued to be the first true science-fiction story.