Monday, November 2, 2009

Mrs. Delany and Her Circle



Aren't they breathtaking? And their story is even more so...

  • There are 1,000 of them made by the same woman.
  • Her name was Mrs. Mary Delany and she made them over a decade, beginning her task at the age of 72
  • They are paper collages using paper and gouache paint for effect, called "paper mosaicks" by their creator, all glued onto a painted black ground.
  • They are all housed in the British Museum and they have made the images of them available online at this link.
I first heard of Mary Delany and Her Circle from this post on Needleprint blog (which I love!) where she mentions an upcoming exhibit at Sir John Soane's Museum in London 19 February - 01 May 2010.

I quickly became enamored with the life of Mary Delany (born Mary Granville), an aristocratic gentlewoman, married and widowed twice who lived from 1700-1788. During the course of her long, accomplished life, this dignitary of domestic life befriended poets and philosophers; excelled at gardening, painting, needlework, shellwork, you name it! She was a trusted friend of the royal family and, because she was a prolific letter writer, there is much known not only about Mrs. Delany herself but the social circle in which she traveled and the time in which she lived.


I want to meet Mrs. Delany. I know, I can't. She's dead.

But the closest thing I can do is go see her needlework, her collages, her paintings and the like. But I can't make it to the UK...

After some research, I found that the Yale Center for British Art is currently showing this exhibition 24 Sept 2009 - 3 January 2010 and will be the only U.S. venue for our Mrs. Delany.

Road trip! I've already cleared it with Jimmy and I think we'll be driving up sometime over the Christmas holiday...

So I just had to tell you about it in case you get the opportunity to travel to New Haven, Connecticut.

If not, I can honestly attest that the 275-page book from the exhibition is outstanding,



Though it doesn't show all 1,000 of the paper collages, there are many included. Not to mention sections on Mrs. Delany's needlework...

From the back cover of the book
which is absolutely exquisite.

I have not digested the entire book, but one thing I'll share which I thought was fascinating. They believe that black was not a very popular color to wear to court during the time;


Therefore, they believe that these black pieces of needlework were parts of the slip of the gowns that covered the whale-bone hoops...with coordinating, paler colors over top. So, it was the coats, mantuas, stomachers and bodices that would have been in pinks, blues and greens to coordinate. Wouldn't that have been beautiful?

Here's a link to the New York Times Review of the exhibit. And don't forget to forage through the 1,000 collage pictures on the British Museum website (click to enlarge!)...they are wonderfully inspiring for quilting and needlework.


My hat is off, my knee is bent and my head is bowed in honor of you, Mrs. Delany.

Wow.

17 comments:

Dolores said...

Oh what a beautiful and inspiring post. Thank you for introducing me to Mrs. Delaney. Simply superb.

Vicki W said...

Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

Ati. said...

Indeed breathtaking, never heard of her before.
Thank you Susan for pointing this out to the blogger-world.

Lisa said...

Wow is right! I'd seen her collage work before, but not the stitching ~ The stitchery is STUNNING!!! Something to aspire to! Thanks so much for sharing! Lucky you that you will get to see some of her work in person!

denise said...

Oh, thank you for this. New Haven is about 45 minutes from you so I'm making a plan to check out this beautiful work.

denise said...

oops, New Haven is 45 minutes from ME, not you...duhhhhh. I was so excited I didn't proof read. ;-)

Pigtown-Design said...

This is incredible.

The Sir John Soane museum is one of the best places i've visited. it's small and quiet, off the beaten path. not a lot of people know about it.

did you find peewee in hampden?

Cathy K said...

OMG, what a find! Thank you for bringing Mrs. Delany to us. I've bookmarked the site and added the book to my Christmas list ..... WOW, indeed! Makes me want to go stitch flowers. I bet Allie will love these too, and probably do her own "take" on some. :-)
Hugs, Cathy

Barbara C said...

Wow indeed. Those thistles knocked my socks off.

Judy S. said...

Very interesting post, Susan! I just had to go to our encylopedia to see who the rulers were when Mrs. Delany was doing her exquisite work. Sounds like a fun exhibit to see; lucky you!

Wanda said...

"WOW" is right. "Breathtaking" is a perfect description!

Bérénice said...

Superb work! thanks for the information : I would probably be able to visit it in London next year : I wait for your comments (I guess they will be admirative oh! and ah!)

Dees said...

Thank you so much for sharing... I feel humble and stand in awe!

Chris said...

Truly inspirational work. Enjoy your trip. I suspect there will be some breath taking moments at the exhibit

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anne said...

Wow!!! This is amazing. Never heard about her. Her work is astonish. How could she had so much time to make these embroideries?
Thank you for telling us about her.

By the way, I didn't know I had to catch up so many post on your blog. It will take a while before I'm back to present post...

anne said...

I just order the book now.

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