Nelson, British

Artist unkown

about 1850

Wool, silk and beads on canvas

55.8 x 77.8 cm

Two icons of 19th-century patriotism stand on either side of the tomb of the greatest British naval hero, Admiral Nelson. On the left is Britannia, her bodice embellished with tiny gold beads, and on the right, Jack Tar (a common term used to refer to a seaman of the Merchant or Royal Navy).  Angels, taken from an early embroiderer’s pattern book produced for women, draw back curtains and union flags to reveal not Nelson’s famous flagship HMS Victory but a frigate – perhaps the artist’s own ship. Tightly-interlaced darning stitches change direction to give volume and texture to the theatrical panorama, while small random stitches shape the flowers of England’s green and pleasant land beneath a zigzag sky.

British sailors’ woolworks like this one were commonly known as ‘woolies’, and were produced throughout the 19th century.