HISTORY THROUGH NEEDLEWORK

I was wandering through the free-for-public-use pictures collection recently opened up by the National Archive of the Netherlands, looking for interesting photos of needlework or knitting.  “Merklap” is the Dutch word for sampler.  Using it, I stumbled across these:

Clicking on each image above will bring you to the original archive site, complete with a very useful zoom feature for close inspection.

Now, from what I understand from the captions, these three unusual counted thread pieces were stitched by Her Majesty, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, consort to King Frederick IX of Denmark.  The archives captions says that the three samplers  bear images relevant to her life with her parents, King Gustav VI of Sweden, and Princess Margaret of Connaught, and the photos were collected in 1954 (One of the pieces bears a date of 11 November 1952.)

Queen Ingrid was born in 1910 and died in 2000.  Reading through the bio snips available, she was an early feminist and thoroughly remarkable woman, widely respected for personal courage and support of the Danish people during the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. 

Historical context aside, just look at those motifs!   Worked in double running or back stitch, with the background done in cross stitch, the items shown are full of exquisite detail.  That horse in the center of the second sampler is on my list for regraphing, for sure.  I love the humor, the juxtaposition of high heraldry and honors with the totally mundane. 

The first sampler bears Swedish heraldry (the three crowns), and honors her parents.  The other two seem to be about her own life and interests, with her seal, and images of her education, sports and leisure activities; and pursuits including art, biology, horticulture (she redid many formal gardens), geology, and antiquities.  How can you not be charmed by a Queen who stitches a box of spaghetti, fishing lures, a pilot’s wings, Canasta cards, and a cabin in the woods?

In short, Ingrid may have been a highly influential and important person, but these pieces now offered up to the public make an instant connection to her as an individual with curiosity, energy, and humor.   I’ll seek out some better books on her life and times. And I’ll think of her the next time I have spaghetti with a salad,  with candy canes (polka grisar) for dessert.

7 responses

  1. You are right, the detail is exquisite! I wondered, for instance, how you knew they were canasta cards until I looked closely. These are thoroughly fascinating pieces.

    The most formal upper piece has some intimate details on the lower right. What is that about, the bureau with the perhaps water or wine containing carafe and the glass? And I quite agree, the selection of items pictured is delightful.

    Thank you for bringing these lovelies to our attention and filling us in on a bit of Queen Ingrid’s history.

  2. I’m amazed. I’m working on this idea to embroider the background than the pattern since few weeks and here I found the same thing…
    And discovered your blog too ! Read you soon 🙂

    1. Great minds think alike!

      If you page back through my embroidery projects, you’ll see lots of examples of patterns that were done by stitching on background, with accents on the foreground. It was an extremely popular look in the 1500s-1600s, achieved by many different techniques.

      1. Thanks a lot for all that.
        I need time to look at everything but I will as it does support my work.
        And I saw your work too, it’s amazing how big your project is ! It will be wonderful once finished.

  3. When I first saw the page, I wondered why you were showing what looked (to me) like engravings. Once I followed the URL and did close ups, I was blown away. The background looks like the vertical line method you’ve used in your embroidery, too.

    Wow, what an amazing Queen, and what amazing needlework. You made my day!

    –Kathryn

    1. Amazing, for sure! I’m about a third of the way through graphing the riderless horse from the second sampler. I hope to post it here some time next week. And you’re right. Either double running or back stitch, constrained to 90, 180 and 45 degrees – just like most 16th century pieces! -K.

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