A Misses Patten School Needlework of Moses in the Bulrushes by Emily Sage

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A Misses Patten School Needlework of Moses in the Bulrushes by Emily Sage

“The Babe Wept and She Had Compassion on Him.

Exod. Ch. 2. V. 6.”

“E. Sage”

A fine Silk on Silk needlework by
Emily Sage (1789-1836) of Portland and Chatham, Connecticut, 1805 – 1810.

Signed lower right by the maker, “E. Sage”, for Emily Sage Selden who was born 1789 and married to John Selden on May 1815. Emily Sage was the daughter of Abner Sage, born 1758, who was the son of Deacon David Sage, born 1718, one of the first settlers of Middletown, Connecticut.

Retaining the original eglomese matte and gilt molded frame retaining the original framer’s label for “Nathan Ruggles Looking Glass Manufacturer, Main Street Hartford, Connecticut.”

This fine silk on silk pictorial needlework features design supporting an attribution to the Misses Pattens School of Hartford, Connecticut. Established by Ruth Patten in Hartford around 1785, this sophisticated female academy became widely known for the needlework of its students. Examples of the distinctive designs are shown in “Girlhood Embroidery” by Betty Ring, pages 202 to 208. Among the most notable signature elements is the metallic thread embroidered eagle at the top. The eagle is shown holding a garland of roses and flowers with sequined bow knots in the corners and large sheaf of wheat at the sides. According to Ring; “The most easily recognized Connecticut needlework has the highly raised and padded metallic embroidery favored by the Misses Patten during the first decade of the nineteenth century but seldom used elsewhere by American schoolgirls except on eighteenth-century Boston coats of arms. At the Patten School, pictorial subjects or coats of arms were often surmounted by a gold or silver raised-work eagle above a swagged garland suspended from spangled bow knots in the upper corners. The central motif was often partly encircled by palm fronds with golden, or bearded ears of wheat (Figs.235-237). It also appears that certain allegorical or Biblical subjects were favorites of the Misses Patten, particularly views of Charity (Fig.238) after the Stamps print (Fig.239) and depictions of Moses in the Bulrushes (Fig.241). Rarer but still recognizable, are other combinations of typical motifs, as seen in Fig.240. Contemporary with these embroideries is a large group of painted coats of arms with patterns identical to the worked ones.”

A nearly identical Moses in the Bulrushes needlework from Misses Patten School and worked by Lucretia Colton is illustrated in “American Needlework” by Georgiana B. Harbeson, figure 1, facing page 83. The Colton needlework had descended in the family and was described by Lucretia’s great-great-granddaughter; “This needlework picture ‘Moses in the Bulrushes’ is one of five Biblical pictures, the only one saved from the great Chicago fire. It was embroidered by my great-great-grandmother, Lucretia Colton, of Long Meadow, Massachusetts, the year in which it was done is unknown. She was born December 29, 1788, so I imagine it was dome about 1800 or thereabouts. The embroidery is in soft shades of greens, yellow and browns, silks in white satin. The eagle at the top is in gold thread, raised, and the figures and the sky are hand painted in.”

Emily Sage is listed in the “Genealogical Record of the Descendants of David Sage, one of the first settlers of Middletown in 1652,” by Elisha Sage, published 1878. She is shown on page 60 under the heading; “Family of Abner, 1758. Great Grandson of David, 1639. Abner 1758 – Sarah Ellsworth, Portland, Conn. – (son of David, 1718) 3d from David. 2 sons, Henry E., 1797, Edward C., 1793. 3 Daughters; Sarah , 1787, (Spencer;) Emily, 1789 (Selden;) *Almira, 1791.”

Emily Sage was married to John Selden (b.1788) on May 21, 1815 in Chatham, Connecticut, just across the river from Middletown. John Selden was the son of David Selden and Cynthia May. Interestingly, there is an early 20th century jelly label on the front of the needlework that may have confused some of the family history. The label appears to be from an early exhibition and reads; “No.1, Needlework picture, Moses and the Pharoh’s daughter, worked at the celebrated Patten School, Hartford, Conn. in 1806. Wrought by Miss Anne Selden, Middletown, Ct.” An additional inscription on the reverse also reads, “Miss Ann Selden, Middletown.” However, the signature on the front of the eglomese glass reads “E. Sage” supporting an attribution to Emily Sage. Another interesting connection between the Sage and Selden families can be seen in the “Genealogical Record of the Descendants of David Sage, one of the first settlers of Middletown in 1652,” by Elisha Sage, published 1878. The frontice piece for the book is an engraving of the Sage Family coat of arms, clearly featuring an eagle with garland and sheaf of wheat from the Misses Patten School. In commenting on the coat of arms the author reports; “ A fac-simile of the same was wrought in silk by an adopted daughter of the family at great labor and expense, and preserved in the family as a much prized treasure. This was found by me after I had undertaken this work, and kindly loaned for the purpose of being engraved to accompany it.” Perhaps the misattribution occurred around this time and the jelly label was added shortly there after.

The signature of E. Sage on the front lower right of the eglomese tablet confirms this
needlework was made by Emily Sage. It is quite possible that it was worked at the same time as Sage Family Coat of Arms that was illustrated by Elisha Sage in 1878. The confusion of the later jelly label inscription and entry in the Genealogical Record must come from the fact the needlework descended in the Selden family after the marriage of 1815.

This fine silk on silk needlework “The Babe Wept and She Had Compassion on Him” by Emily Sage stands as a fine example of the sophisticated works performed by accomplished young ladies in Connecticut in the early 19th century. Needleworks by various students of The Misses Patten School are found in many public collections and are recognized for their quality and beauty.

Condition: This needlework is in good condition and retains the original eglomese matte and gilt frame bearing the label of the maker, Nathan Ruggles of Hartford, Connecticut. The needlework is accompanied by a Post Treatment Report from The Textile Conservation Workshop in South Salem, New York. The procedure included removing the needlework from the frame, vaccuming, humidify and flatten original paper, creation of an insert barrier of Japanese paper, create an archival cushioned barrier, all original materials were retained and re-used. A complete copy of the Report is available upon request.

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