Saturday, 11 September 2010

Dame Dorothy Selby's Embroidery

When we came to work on The Goodhart Samplers, we had known for sometime about the monument to Dame Dorothy (1572-1641) in Ightham parish church - and the fact that concealed behind her head at the back of the monument were 2 depictions of her needlework. There were drawings and engravings that formed the basis of one of these panels which was politically motivated. However, no-one had been particularly interested in the other panel and we didn't know what the subject of it was. The church at Ightham is delightful, but our smiles faded when we saw how high up the wall Dame Dorothy's monument was situated and in totally the worst place for an image - backinging on to the wall by a main window through which light streamed, confounding camera readings. All we could see was deep black shadow behind her head. Also because of the angle, Dame Dorothy's venerable head was well and truly in the way and at best would cast a deep shadow even with lights lit. It looked like a tall ladder job, to say the least. But we were fortunate that a member of the church, Mary Alwood, volunteered to take the image we wanted. And here we are, although it would be lovely to get in even closer, maybe when ceiling repairs are being carried out and there is scaffolding available. But you can just see that the panel is not simply Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge between them (B), but is a work of considerable expanse. It begins on the left with Eve emerging from Adam's rib - below (A) and continues to the right with their eviction from Paradise (C) - you can just see their legs and lower bodies. Also to be seen are a pair of elephants (E) and a unicorn with hinds (D) - the unicorn is the left of the D, the hinds to the right. Dame Dorothy must have been a Dorcas indeed! But where is that stitched panel now - did it survive the 400 years? Is it in a private collection, perhaps unknown, even forgotten? Maybe one day you might see something that looks like this - do tell us, please.

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