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Tailor's hanging

Wool patchwork quilt, made by David Robertson, Scottish, 1853

Wool patchwork quilt, made by David Robertson, Scottish, 1853

This hanging is made from wool broadcloth, probably off-cuts from military uniforms and liveries, in mosaic or inlay patchwork with embroidered details worked in silk thread. It was made by David Robertson, a tailor in Falkirk. It took it 1650 hours to complete and was designed as an exhibition piece.

The sources of the figures in some of the panels are contemporary 19th century tinsel prints of famous actors. These could be purchased as a monochrome print known as a Penny Plain or as a bright hand-coloured Tuppence Coloured print that could be decorated by the buyer with cloth scraps and thin stamped scraps of metal foil known as tinsels.

The figures that have been identified to date are General Sir Robert Sale and Edward Alexander Gomersal as Napoleon, both taken from a series of prints entitled ‘Horses’ published by A Park, London. There is also Andrew Ducrow as Harlequin, Joseph Grimaldi’s Joey the Clown, Miss Ellen Tree as Ion and Edmund Kean as Richard III. Current research by Dr Clare Rose suggests that the figures may have held radical political meaning for contemporary audiences who were seeking political, social and economic reforms.

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