Perusing letters and diaries you find references to people otherwise long lost in the ‘mists of time’. Or so I would have thought — as you will see, below, two bloggers have discovered and discussed Miss Linwood!
But back to Eliza Chute and her sister Augusta Smith…
It was actually a letter reference that came first: Eliza Chute of The Vyne writing to her dear friend Eliza Gosling (Mary’s mum!) in August of 1798. But as Mrs Chute is travelling and discussing with MEG (as Eliza Gosling always signed her letters) the artworks she’s seen, it is easy to lose sight of MISS LINWOOD in this letter.
Sister Augusta, in her 1798 diary, however puts the focus squarely on the divine Miss L.: On Tuesday, 1 May 1798, Augusta writes, “Mr. & Mrs. Shrimpton Mrs Lefevre, Mrs. S. Lefevre Mr. Ewer, Mr. Still [Stile?] & Mrs. Young to Dinner. Went to the Exhibition & to see Miss Linwood’s Pictures in Needle Work.”
Mrs Chute is more expansive, though, giving a clue as to what it was that Miss Linwood did. The Chutes had visited Burleigh, “taking a great round on purpose to see it. I must own, that it is well worth travelling forty or fifty miles to see; tho’ I had heard much of it, still it answered nay surpassed my expectations…”
The two Elizas could now turn to the subject of art collected at Burleigh: “You know the famous picture of this collection is Christ blessing the elements by Carlo Dolci, which Miss Linwood copied so well, but who can equal the beauties of the original?”
Mrs Chute then continued discussing the painting that was so vividly fresh in her mind as she sat with pen and paper ready to tell her dear friend all her thoughts. She ends, “I think I shall be very difficult to please for a long while…”
But what of Miss Linwood?, you say! Who was she? She did what?
She “copied” paintings, by reproducing them in needlework.
When looking for any information on her yesterday, waves of biography, news, even a diary mention came up — and these two blogs:
- let Miss Vic at Jane Austen’s World — who is always so thorough — fill you in on the life of Mary Linwood.
- and see Number One London for a close-up of that portrait of Napoleon, along with other details of Linwood’s life & work.
**Both websites show the V&A portrait of Mary Linwood (by Hoppner)**
**See it for yourself at the Victoria & Albert Museum website**
It was in trying to find ANY representations of her work — what might Eliza and Augusta have seen?? — that I came across her exhibition booklet (at books.google): Miss Linwood’s Gallery of Pictures in Worsted, the 1822 edition. Might such a fragile companion once have been purchased by the Smiths or Goslings?
But all was not sunshine and light in the life of Miss Linwood… An 1839 diary of Miss Harriette Story Paige gives this glimpse into the lady’s life:
“Friday, July 12. Went to see Miss Linwood’s surprising productions in needlework; they are most of them copies, from paintings of the old masters, and being in frames, the deception is perfect at a short distance. For one piece, a copy of a head of our Saviour from Carlo Dolce, we were told, Miss Linwood had been offered 20,000 guineas. Miss Linwood is now 82 years old, her eye-sight, within the last five years has failed, and of course these are her last productions. It is certainly a very interesting monument of taste, and industry; the ‘death of Abel’ she completed about five years ago, and it is difficult to believe, that the whole effect, is entirely produced by stitches….; this exhibition for many years, has been one of the ‘Lions’…”
But to leave Miss Linwood on a happier note: If any readers come across her actual works, please do tell!
P.S. to all listening, as I am, to the Vienna New Year’s Day concert — Prosit Neu Jahr!