January 2016 | Nate Pedersen

Schorsch Collection of Needlework at Sotheby's

Young women in 17th century Europe were not exactly overwhelmed by the number of creative outlets open to them.  Needlework became, for these women, a rare opportunity to explore their imaginative capabilities.  A unique collection of 17th century needlework, offered this week at auction by Sotheby's, provides a fascinating glimpse into the creative forces at work behind a seemingly mundane activity. Some highlights below:

A 17th century needlework book cover with detailed nature scenes (Est. $4,000 - $6,000):

A colorful depiction of the marriage of James II and Queen Mary of Modena, complete with a variety of royal symbols: (Est. $3,000 - $5,000)

A beautiful and highly imaginative example of 17th century stumpwork (where the embroidery rises up off the linen).  Look for the caterpillar with the human face two hundred years before "Alice in Wonderland." (Est. $8,000-$12,000)

A James I needlework casket almost entirely completed with a (very) expensive silver thread.  The scenes around the casket are an allegory for the five senses. (Est. $25,000 - $35,000)