sold ... a good victorian sailors woolwork picture. a ships portrait framed within a vignette of maritime flags, bordered with a set of proscenium curtains, mounted in a burr maple frame behind original float glass.
Along with arts and crafts such as wood carving, scrimshaw and ropework, the sailors woolwork is a genre of folk art popular amongst servicemen in the British Navy and Royal Marines from the mid-19th century onwards.
Woolworks, or woolies as they are sometimes known, are hand embroidered pictures, usually worked in coloured wool and on rare occasion supplemented with silk and cotton thread. This was applied to plain-weave cotton or linen cloth, most commonly using cross stitch, chain stitch, long stitch, and short stitch, as needlework was an essential skill for any naval rating of the time.
woolwork subjects usually depict a vibrant portrait capturing a ship cutting through the ocean at full sail. On occasion, ship portraits are framed within a vignette of maritime flags, heraldic banners, or coats of arms for maritime nations and important naval ports. Some of the rarest examples are bordered with a set of proscenium curtains to heighten the drama of the portrait as in this example.
Although the heyday of the sailors woolwork is considered to be the period 1860-1880, they remained a popular creative pastime among sailors as recently as the First World War. Ultimately, the switch from sail to steam, coupled with the increasing affordability of photography signalled the end for a now forgotten folk art.
what works remain present a charming, if somewhat naïve, glimpse of a lost art form and a majestic era when sail dominated the high seas.