Silkwork Picture

Silkwork picture of the Washington family
Silk ground, silk threads, and paint
Attributed to Betty Burnett Lewis (1808-1886)
Fredericksburg, Virginia
ca. 1820
Gift of Mrs. George A. Ball, 1935
Betty Burnett Lewis was a granddaughter of Fielding and Betty Lewis. She grew up in and around Fredericksburg and, in 1826, married a distant relative, George Washington Bassett. Although Betty may have stitched this "fancy work" because it represented her Washington relatives, many young girls depicted the Washington family in their needlework embroidery during the early 19th century.

This picture is based on a portrait by Edward Savage that was published as an engraving in 1798. It depicts George Washington with his wife Martha, her two grandchildren, George Washington Custis and Eleanor Parke Custis, and their servant William Lee. The engraving became extremely popular throughout the United States. The 1816 probate inventory of Eleanor Bonneau of Charleston, South Carolina, for example, listed "1 Print framed Washington's family" valued at two dollars.

As was common during the period, the bodies and costumes are stitched in silk thread over a plain silk background while the faces and hands of the subjects are painted.