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Beettlewing
Early 19th c

Rare to find such fine beetle-wings. I am very familiar with mid 19th c beetlewing on organza made into dresses in India for the Europeans and also the little tourist mats of the late 19th/early 20th c. This has been finished at both ends. I feel it was to be used for an early 19th century dress. Imagine how the iridescent beetle-wings shone when worn by candlelight. Carter, Alison. Miscellaneous Notes on Indian Textiles which included interesting information on beetlewing in The Textile Society Magazine. Indian issue. Autumn 1991. In the article Alison notes: Iridescent beetle elytra (beetle-wing cases)of many different kinds can be found in tropical regions including North India, Burma,Thailand . These wings may well be those of Sternocera aequisignata Saunders (family Buprestidae, Jewlel Beetles). Tests were carried out on one of the beetle-wing dresses at Cheltenham museum of similar date by the Natural History Museum. Those from South America are of a lighter green and less bronzed. Fanny Parks recorded in 1826 that beetlewings are procurable at Benares, and are used there for ornamenting kimkhwab and native dresses. In Calcutta and Madras they embroider gowns for European ladies with these wings, edged with gold; the wings are cheap at Benares, expensive at other places Pieces of beete-wing were cut with scissors, knives or glass, and shaped into leaf-shaped or spangle-shaped pieces 1.5 - 2 cm long. They are pierced by needles to make holes and then sewn onto the fabric with gold or green silk or cotton thread. One hole secured with gold three stitches forming a wishbone shape secures each wing 1/4 in or 60 mm long. Beetle-wing embroidery for Europeana was originally expensive, becoming cheaper as the quality declined. Beetlewing is known to have been sewn onto muslin, satin, net and organza. Indian embroiders clearly initiated the technique. Europeans copied them and ladies of leisure in Britain in the 1860's were advised in magazines to use a Walker Number 8 needle and green silk thread and to make four holes in each. See: Costume 1992 (17) for holdings of beetle-wing embroideries in British museum collections.

Description

on organza ground with four rows of meandering leafy sprays, the beetlewings cut small and fine, caught down with a green silk thread using three stitches, and outlined with fine gold couched thread, the beetle-wings 1/4 in or 60 mm long; loom width 18 1/2 in or 47 cm

Condition

Excellent apart from a few light brown markings 14 in down from the top second meander in from left.

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