Ann West: a needlework masterpiece at the V&A
Ann West, the creator of this needlework masterpiece, may have owned a millinery and dressmaking shop in Chippenham, Wiltshire. To make the coverlet, she used brightly coloured woollen material from coats and uniforms, a type of cloth made in the West Country.
The design shows Adam naming the animals in the Garden of Eden, together with 64 brightly coloured woollen panels showing other vivid scenes from Bible stories, and lively depictions of everyday characters and occupations. Captions are embroidered over the appliqué pictures, adding humorous and personal touches. Each panel acts as a window onto early nineteenth century life, and they include a depiction of a double wedding, a 'Poor Sailor', and a 'Negro servant and Master'. The term 'negro' was used historically to describe people of black (sub-Saharan) African heritage. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.