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Austin, Lydia Bowles  Search this
Physical Description:
silk (ground material)
silk (thread material)
overall: 10 1/2 in x 15 3/8 in; 26.67 cm x 39.0525 cm
Object Name:
embroidered picture
Place made:
United States: Massachusetts, Boston, Dorchester
After a young lady learned to embroider a sampler, she might attend a female academy to make a silk embroidered picture. This was a more challenging technique that became popular in the early 1800s. Subjects included classical, biblical, and historical scenes, as well as mourning pictures.
A Roman lady, with her three children, is depicted with a seated Roman matron holding a box of jewels. The standing lady holds the hand of the youngest child, who is admiring a brooch, and gestures toward her other two children - a boy carrying a scroll on which the letters “ABC” are visible, and a slightly older girl carrying a slate. The heads, arms, legs, and feet of the figures, the background sky, and the bushes are painted. Below the picture, embroidered in black silk stem stitch, is the inscription, "THESE ARE MY JEWELS." It has a glass mat reverse-painted white with a 5/8" gold, black, and violet geometric band. At the lower edge, in gold are the words, "WROUGHT by LYDIA BOWLES AUSTIN at MRS. SAUNDERS & MISS BEACH'S ACADEMY." The picture is worked on a plain-weave ivory silk ground with silk embroidery threads and is lined with linen. The stitches are satin, split, outline, and chain.
The title of the embroidery is taken from a Roman legend which tells of Cornelia, with her children, visiting a wealthy Roman lady who proudly displays her collection of jewelry and then asks to see Cornelia's jewelry. To this Cornelia replies "These are my jewels," indicating her children. The picture is a copy of an engraving by Bartolozzi, entitled "Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi" which was published in London in 1788, copied from a painting by Angelica Kauffmann.
In 1803 Judith Foster Saunders and Clementina Beach moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, and started a school for young ladies. They used the services of John Doggett for much of the framing of the needlework pieces. The framing included glass mats that had the name of the embroiderer as well as the name of the school, which has made it easy to identify pieces from their school.
Lydia Bowles Austin, daughter of Joseph and Lydia Bowles Austin of Boston, Massachusetts was born in 1792 and died unmarried in Boston on July 18, 1824. Her father was a baker.
Currently not on view
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Robert B. Stephens
ID Number:
Catalog number:
Accession number:
See more items in:
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Embroidered Pictures
Data Source:
National Museum of American History