The latter part of the 17th century is the period known as Late Jacobean. The third corner of this crewel work sampler was stitched while I was a student at the Royal School of Needlework a very long time ago, a teenager. This is where we learned to shade. The red and pink of the pomegranate is parallel shading. Parallel rows of stem stitch are worked starting from the outside. Notice how the colour change is achieved. The rest of the items are all long and short stitch and we started with the central part of the large leaf. By the time we got to the smaller, outer leaves we had more of an idea on how to do this difficult stitch. The leaves that shade from navy through green to yellow are one inch in length for the smallest, and one and a half inches long for the leaves at the top of the panel. The method is ‘stitching to a vein without a vein’. Notice the sharp points and crisp edges to these leaves. I did a good job of those and yes, there are technical tricks to achieve this.
Researching this design, the pomegranate is symbolic for fertility and abundance though there are different meanings dependent on the culture or religion.
We were told that the blue rose indicated the joining of the Houses of Lancaster and York which concluded the Wars of the Roses. These civil wars in the 15th century (described as long, repetitive and destructive) were between the Plantagenets (white roses) and the Tudors (red roses) and the politics were complicated. A combination of sick and incompetent rulers created widespread unrest with families divided and fighting each other.
Henry Tudor (became Henry V11), won the final battle which was horrific but ended the conflict. He was the father of Henry V111 and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth 1. As the Early Jacobean period occurred after the reign of Elizabeth, this blue rose indicates a period that was already history. The above stylised version of the uniting of these warring factions is really more congruent. I, personally, think that the blue rose is just a blue rose with no historical significance.
Unfortunately, the water damage from steaming is clearly visible in this quarter of the sampler.
I remain eager to hear your comments and ideas on the significance of these motifs. It would be great to be able to put more information into the provenance.
You can also go to Stitching Idyllic to see more recent stitching or check out Etsy for some great Jacobean Crewel Embroidery kits, but I have not tried them.