The rule of Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) brought economic growth and stability to England. During the Tudor and Stuart periods, embroidery became a very popular home activity across all social classes. Nearly every girl learned to embroider, and the number of enthusiastic embroiderers soon rivalled the workshops, which also employed male embroiderers. Templates were circulated on woodcuts and engravings and catered to the new tastes inspired by the Renaissance. Some virtuosos mastered the technique with more than 25 different stitches. Every imaginable surface of the household was decorated with embroidery. Knotted rugs were extremely rare and were only placed on the floors of the wealthiest residences. Otherwise, floors were usually covered with rushes or straw to soak up human and animal waste. Knotted rugs were commonly used as table coverings. Not only knotted rugs, but also embroidered tablecloths were referred to as table carpets.
This extremely rare fragment of an Elizabethan table carpet from around 1580 features wool chain stitching on a hemp ground. The design is historically significant, since the white rose is the symbol of the House of York. The white rose for York and the red rose for the House of Lancaster, who fought to succeed to the English throne, are a reminder of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485), which ended with a Lancaster victory and the rise of the Tudors. This table carpet probably belonged to a descendent of the House of York.
A complementary piece is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Comparative literature: Bunt, Cyril G.E., Tudor and Stuart Fabrics. Leigh-on-Sea 1961. Figure 21
Size: 41 x 49 cm
Age: arpimd 1580
Condition: very good
Basic weave: hemp