A Folk Art Seed Work Picture in an Ebonised & Glazed Frame “Gods Gift to Man” c.1874

Origin: British
Period: Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1874
Length: 24 inches
Height: 24 inches
Depth: 2 inches

The large folk art seed work picture composed of a vast array of seeds, peas and beans, inscribed below a cross with the IHS monogram (standing for the first three letters of Jesus' name in the Greek alphabet) with `Gods Gifts to Man` to the lower section, within its original glazed and ebonised frame, signed and dated within the fields corners ‘JW’ and ‘1874’.

The condition of the work is fair; it could be part restored if so desired but is found in decorative and original condition. The tape edging the glass and frame has frayed a bit and some seeds have become loose within the frame, around 10% of the total. There are a couple of delicate sections to the frame but it can be hung in confidence.

The year of 1874 in England saw the birth of Winston Churchill, lawn tennis being invented, and in the art world, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's oil painting Proserpine, modelled on Jane Morris being created. It was also a year of profound political change in Britain: Benjamin Disraeli became Conservative Prime Minister for the second time after winning a landslide victory on a platform of popular democracy.

More crucially with regards to this work, between the 20th February and the 10th August there was a major agricultural workers' strike, which may mean this work was a direct reaction to that situation, making it a little more poignant. The piece is clearly a tribute to the harvest of food available to man, and believed made available, by God, and this item was clearly crafted by a very devoted religious person and it would have taken an awfully long time to construct.

Pieces of folk art themselves are ephemeral, simple, and often crude, though they are always enchanting. They were made by unskilled people, usually provincially, for everyday use and enjoyment, and are naively decorated, and made of basic materials. Folk art provides an excellent insight into the everyday life of ordinary people in times of old, and for that reason we love it.

A serious, sizeable, and rather rare piece of folk art documenting the lives and times of the Victorian people, the Christian faith, and the implicit importance of agriculture at the time.