Rare, unusual and interesting antique costumes and textiles; for museums and collectors looking for that extra special piece, for new and established collectors and for those with a modest budget who want to adorn their person or home.


American? Theorem

I think this must have been for curtain edging or a bell pull. Very attractive and nice to have an example of a Victorian craft worked by leisured ladies.  Originally done free-hand but then with a series of overlaid stencils, with the lighter tones being applied first. Theorems of formulas as they were called, were worked out theorematical. Flowers and fruit in baskets were the most popular. The earliest book on the craft was probably J W Alston's Hints to Young Practioners in the Study of Landscape Painting 1804. Instruction in the Art of Painting on Velvet was added to a new edition a year later. The stencils were cut from horn paper which was made by coating ordinary drawing paper with linseed oil, then brushing it with turpentine or varnish and left to dry. The stencil was placed on the material and the open parts were covered with paint. The paint, of creamy consistency, was applied with a stiff brush. The detail work was done with India ink and a fine sable brush.  By 1830 Godey's Lady's Book was referring to painting on velvet as Oriental Tinting or Poonah Work, perhaps because the snub nosed brush was called a poona. The Young Ladies' Journal Complete Guide to the Work Table 1885 gave full instructions for the painting. Painting on velvet was very popular in America and many examples can be seen in the UK at the American Museum at Claverton Manor, Bath.


the length of white velvet stencilled with a variety of full blown flowers including lillies, roses, harebells, tulips and morning glory, in shades of rich blue, red, green, yellow and brown, 7 ft 6 in x 7 in or  2.28  x 18 cm


Very good apart from slight brown marking discolouration to the sides.


  • Field, June Collecting Georgian & Victorian Crafts p 70-77

  • Carter Lefko, Linda and Knickerbocker, Barbara The Art of Thereom Painting.

What distinguishes theorems from other forms of stencilled picutres is that theorems - be they on paper, velvet, glass or wood - are created using a series of overlaid stencils. Such paintins were called theorems because the picture maker could methodically 'theorise' how a desired design would break down into component parts. Layers of stencils would then be cut from a master tracing of the entire coposition. Each stencil was numbered in sequence so that lighter tones would be applied first.