Embroidered box (small cabinet)
Silk and metallic threads on white satin, decorated with seed pearls, wood, and metal
The John R. Van Derlip Fund and gifts in honor of Mary Ann Butterfield, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Textile Conservator, on the occasion of her retirementIn England during the mid-17th century, teenage girls who had developed exceptional embroidery skills sometimes chose to execute particularly ambitious projects to display their talent in a tangible manner. One choice was to create decorative panels that would cover a small multi-drawer cabinet used to store special keepsakes. Many of the designs for these boxes were inspired by Dutch prints, which were popular in England during this period, as well as special books that contained individual images of plants and animals. These books were used extensively as a design resource to fill any undecorated areas, as the aesthetic of the day abhorred empty space.Another feature of decorative embroidery of this period was as disregard for relative proportion, and thus we see on this box a bird, a lion, and a butterfly—all of which are approximately the same size!This spectacular embroidery was added to the museum's collection to honor Mary Ann Butterfield, the museum's Textile Conservator, on the occasion of her retirement in 1995. Generous contributions from many of her friends, colleagues, and family members helped to purchase this piece, which is a textile form that Ms. Butterfield particularly appreciated. This addition is an important addition to the museum's holdings, and particularly meaningful to the textile community, as Ms. Butterfield passed away last October.