Title: Suspended Beauty
Collection: The Regency Wardrobe
Garment: A Reticule
Materials: cartridge paper, watercolour ink, FSC accredited paper tablecloth, lace effect paper, embroidery thread, card, quilling paper strips
The illustrations on the sides of this reticule are inspired by the art of the zoological illustrator, in particular those who illustrated birds. Many men became well known for their work in this area at this time, including John Gould, but there were also women working, including Elizabeth Gould, née Coxen (1804 - 1841). Soon after the publication of the Gould’s first ornithological images, Elizabeth became briefly internationally renowned for producing works of great beauty and accuracy but she died of puerperal fever at 37 after the birth of their eighth child. There are a series of Gould’s books of birds in the library at Firle Place, as there would have been in many large houses in the early nineteenth century. The sketches of birds on this reticule are reproductions of illustrations from this period. Reticules with decorated paper bases of varying shape appear to have been popular throughout the Regency era.
The process of creating the piece of quilling that lies beneath this reticule involved pinning delicate coils of paper in place. The process seemed reminiscent of the way that fragile specimens of butterflies and moths were once pinned to boards by collectors. Portrayed in this piece are the: Exotic Cecropia moth; Small Emperor moth; Atlas moth. There is one butterfly in honour of Henry, the 4th Viscount Gage (1791-1877), who likely bought some of the Gould volumes to the library of his family seat, Firle Place, Sussex. It is the Tanaecia pelea, the Malay Viscount. All four are portrayed alongside decorative detailing from a large rug normally found in the Downstairs Drawing Room of Firle Place which is believed to be the closest in style and colour to any that would have been in the house during the Regency period.
Unusually there are gaps left in this piece of quilling to suggest the horror felt by those who preserve historic textiles toward such moths as eat fabric. The centre of this design is reproduced from the front of a flat reticule dated 1800, held in the Olive Matthews collection at Chertsey Museum.
Suspended Beauty is presented in an acrylic display case: H 42cms, W 30cms, D30cms with handles made from paper quilling.