A Charming 19thC Sailor's Woolwork Picture Of A Two Masted Ship


Origin: English
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870-80
The Woolwork: 19” x 14”
Overall Height: 17.75 inches
Overall Width: 22.5 inches

The naïve woolwork worked in good strong colours with a large two masted ship to the foreground flying the British Red Ensign with the signal flags for K (Kilo), FI, S (Sierra) and P (Papa) with two further ships and lighthouse beyond, on a well rendered frothy sea and mixed blue sky with clouds, the two blending to form a pleasing whole.

The yarn in the picture is fully in tact with no areas of loss or moth and they remain taught and the piece is presented in its original gilded and ruled glazed frame. The colours have a general fade that is wholly expected, and consummate with age. The glass sits very slightly loose in the frame but could be tightened closer to the woolwork with the addition of one or two nails or fasteners to the rear.

Woolwork pictures, or woolies as they are more endearingly known, were made by British sailors who were also talented needle workers. At its most prolific between 1840-1880, the sailors learned their folk art through their daily routines of repairing the ship's sails. They made the most of their limited spare time and personal space by creating artworks that could be rolled up and stored under their bunks when not being worked on. These sailors were knowledgeable about their ships and their surroundings and were skilled at drawing on canvas and then transforming a simple sketch into a vibrant and detailed study. With the sailors being self taught, and unmotivated by financial gain, the majority of woolies are left unsigned.

This example is an attractive one, the sailor obviously had a keen eye and sense of composition, and the presence of a lighthouse and a series of signal flags, along with the woolies condition make it a desirable find.