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HELP! Trying to identify the type "thread" used in making these....

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Rugs and Textiles564 of 729HELP! Can anyone Identify these portraits and the "thread" used?buttons from the past
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Posted 5 years ago


(4 items)

Hi everyone, I am hoping somebody can help with determining the origin of these two portraits. I am creating three listings here due to the photo limits. One for the female, one for the male and one for the frame because I think the frames will be helpful in determining the time period the portraits were made. I obtained these in central California from a rather desperate person who inherited and there were alot of antiques all of which were being sold cheap. I immediately noticed that they were stitched using something other than embroidery thread. They were in the frames one with oval glass and the other no glass. They both have what I believe is glue residue on them as you'll see in the photos. I am pretty certain the frames are original to them because they are a perfect fit to the frames. Curious to identify the thread I took them around to several antique shops got no answers but alot of offers to buy. The thread appears to be hair, not horse hair, it is very soft and silky, and the background "hair" has the variations of color you see on a person with brown/auburn hair coloring. A few years ago someone suggested to me that these were Death Portraits. I was told it was customary to stitch these using the deceased own hair. True or False? I have had no luck verifying this supposed custom but it does fit in with the portraits. I would love to know when these were done and what they were made of and the value as is. I knew this website would be my best chance at getting some answers to questions I've had for 23 years now. Thank you!

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  1. inky inky, 5 years ago
    I can't help I'm afraid!.. but I think they are stunning... to me!!.. they look older than the frames. There are a few people here that will be able to help you I'm sure...Thanks for showing them!....
  2. Manikin Manikin, 5 years ago
    Amazing piece . It appears to human hair the brown color but the blonder seems to be a different material is it ? It looks like hair that is sewn when making a human hair antique doll wig the way it is stitched at top to keep it together . I am inclined to think it may have been a mourning piece . Her hair on head and other hair maybe mohair ? Just a guess so hoping someone else chimes in also .Human hair that old often feels a bit stiff and mohair remains very soft . If this was touch the item it would help :-)
  3. Manikin Manikin, 5 years ago
    Also colored area's of work maybe a silk thread .
  4. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    I think the technique is called "long-stitch" embroidery. The silks are bought and you strip them into single threads. I've seen some examples from the art nouveau, Jugendstil and Deco periods. Yours look like Art Deco pieces to my eye. The faces are painted on silk too, I'd say. They look like Lenci doll faces. Really quite beautiful. I'd say European, maybe French or Italian. The Chinese still do amazing work too!
  5. Manikin Manikin, 5 years ago
    Vetraio your right it is called a long stitch . After looking at 2nd post I agree I believe it to be silk also . They are beautiful . The brown in background on this one does look a bit like human hair but on 2nd photo not so much . I am with you 100% Silk floss thread .
  6. drummergyrl drummergyrl, 5 years ago
    Hi Everyone,
    Thank you for all of your input here, I feel I have a jumping off point in terms of a new search. I read the replies left on the male portrait before reading the ones here and I responded over there. It's funny, because in trying to answer Manikin I guess without knowing it, I was describing what I have just now learned is called long stitch embroidery. I also commented on the silkiness of the "hair" throughout the entire piece. Perhaps it is mohair, I honestly don't know. Can anyone instruct me on the finer points of determining / or differences between, say silk floss thread and mohair? I have a winter hat that is 100% Mohair, that's the extent of my exposure there. Thank you for your comments & input!

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