"In Praise of the Needlewoman - Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers, and 
Weavers in Art"
By Gail Carolyn Sirna
Merrell Publishers
Hardcover, $35, 2006, 192 pages, 1-85894-341-8

Do you have someone special on your gift list who loves art - as in paintings 
they visit in museums?  This book might just be the answer to your shopping 
challenge.  It contains paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries by famous and 
less famous artists that portray women in the act of embroidering, knitting, 
lacemaking, weaving, crocheting, sewing.  Too often we see laces 
out-of-context.  Here, when lace is present in a painting, we see dress, 
hairstyle, room 
furnishings and indoor or outdoor backgrounds of the period. 

We know that many people think fine needlework is no longer being made.  The 
author, in her introduction, tells about present guilds.  Perhaps this will 
serve to educate today's readers as to what many of us have been endeavoring to 
preserve in recent years - skills and accurate documentation of our history.  
(Just today, a prominent TV personality referred to a delightful combination 
of silk ribbon roses/sequins & beaded embroidery/sheer applique on a 
transparent Valentino-designed frock as "bargello".)

Sirna has been lecturing and teaching embroidery at the national (American) 
level for 25+ years.  She selected 89 images from North America and Europe - 
many museums and a variety of artists are represented - for inclusion in this 
book.   Paintings range in variety and style from two by Vermeer (one being the 
well-known lacemaker), eight separate lovely portraits by Renoir, and one by 
Dali (a little-known painting of a lacemaker).  I loved (for the woman's attire 
and romantic setting) Madame Arthur Fontaine, painted by Odilon Redon in 
1901, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She is shown in 
beautiful romantic setting, embroidering.  She is wearing a lovely yellow 
gown, lace bertha collar and lace cuffs.

All art images are in color and the book is printed on quality paper.  The 
layout of the pages makes this book a joy to read.  Each time a page is turned 
there is a new image, and facing it is an essay about it and the artist.  No 
need to jump throughout the book to get the story.  It is easy to read a few 
pages and think about them, then return to the book another day.

A list of suggested Further Reading, the Picture Credits, and Index are at 
the back of the book, if needed.

This is a book that can probably be found in Museum Bookshops, as well as the 
usual suppliers.

If, as a result of this review you acquire this book - please let me know 
what you think of it.

Jeri Ames in Maine USA
Lace and Embroidery Resource Center

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