Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Artifact of the Week – Silk-Embroidered French Greeting Card

An embroidered card featuring a large red and pink rose with green leaves tied with a lavender ribbon. A blue and yellow decorative border surrounds the bottom-half of the flower. 'X-Mas Greetings' is embroidered below in baby-blue thread. A card with green, white and red decorations reads 'Merry Christmas' and is separate from the embroidered card.
"Poppy" Joe Newman Fonds, 73.561.X.1
Embroidered postcards are believed to have originated in Austria as early as 1903, but they gained their popularity and reached new artistic heights in the hands of the French. By 1907, France was a main producer of the cards, which were hand-stitched by Belgian and French women on strips of silk that were then incorporated into a cardboard backing. Embroidered cards became wildly popular during the First World War (1914-1919), when lonesome soldiers would purchase them as souvenirs to send to loved ones back home, or to keep as reminders of friendlier, cosier days while surrounded by the misery of the trenches.

Close-up of the red rose. Red, pale pink and bright pink threads can be seen. Two different shades of green are used in the leaves and a white rosebud sits in the top right corner.
Detail: 73.561.X.1
This example from the Peace River Museum and Archives is among the more elaborate embroidered card designs known to exist: the silk is styled in an envelope fashion, allowing the small, sentimental greeting to be tucked lovingly inside. The back of the card provides space for a postcard-style message. This particular card is in excellent condition and still retains the original brilliance and rich colours it would have displayed a hundred years ago. The identity of the sender (a woman named May) is now lost to history, but it is known that the card belonged to Joseph “Poppy Joe” Newman, who collected postcards while serving overseas in the First World War.

Close-up of the lavender ribbon. It has been embroidered with several tiny loops chained together.
Detail: 73.561.X.1
The card likely originates from anywhere between 1912 and 1926. It will be on display at the Peace River Museum and Archives in December as part of the upcoming Holiday Exhibit.

Message on the back of the card reads:
Wishing you both a merry Christmas and the best of luck in the new Year. From May

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