Needlework picture “Woman Creating a Garland”, 1800-1830
Silk thread on satin ground, 17 x 14 1/8
Gift of Mr. Robert Narkis 95.24
By the late 1700s and early 1800s, schools or academies for well-to-do young women flourished, the Litchfield Academy was one of them. Through her innovative curriculum, the school’s founder Sarah Pierce transformed the lives of the more than 3,000 women who attended the school. The academic curriculum at the Female Academy reflected Sarah Pierce’s belief that women and men were intellectually equal. Pierce continuously improved and expanded her academic curriculum, offering many subjects rarely available to women, including logic, chemistry, botany and mathematics. At the same time, Pierce experimented with innovative ways to unite the academic and ornamental subjects.
Pierce knew that teaching the ornamental subjects was critical to the success of her school. The decorative paintings and needleworks made by the girls were proudly displayed as showpieces of their work, talent, and status. This piece would inspire a parent’s pride. Floral garlands in hues of pinks, blues and greens frame a circle at center. There, a young woman sits on a rock, crafting a floral garland, two lamb at her feet and a discarded crook on the ground. The subject of young women with their baby farm or domestic animals was a popular motif at the period and the pastoral scene is compositionally strong and thematically lively.