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Maker(s):Ross, Elizabeth (attributed)
Title:needlework coat of arms: Ross
Date Made:ca. 1768
Type:Textile; Household Accessory
Materials:textile: polychrome silk embroidery; metallic thread; padding; black satin weave silk ground
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Boston
Measurements:overall: 31 1/4 x 31 x 7/8 in.; 79.375 x 78.74 x 2.2225 cm; embroidery: 18 in. square
Accession Number:  HD 58.234
Credit Line:Museum purchase
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Embroidered coat of arms of the Ross family with a bent arm holding a garland over a helmet, and a shield with three rampant lions encircled by scrolled floral designs, which is done in silk, interlaced metallic threads, couched metals, and raised work on black silk in gold, silver, red, blue, yellow, orange, and green, and is in the original molded and painted wood frame with a molded gilt inner liner. By the mid 18th century, the rising merchant class wanted to display status symbols, and coats of arms became a popular subject for needlework pictures wrought in Boston. Embroideries depicting true or pseudo-coats of arms (few New England families were entitled to bear them) done in girls' embroidery schools were probably some of the most costly done. The city was home to at least six school mistresses who taught this kind of embroidery, advertising in local papers during the 1750s, 1760s, and 1770s. By 1730, Boston heraldic painters had access to a number of publications that illustrated coats of arms from which to copy or combine elements. The schools were provided with patterns and stencils from shops operated by these heraldic painters, such as John Gore, the largest provider in Boston. Based on a 2010 article by Angela Duckwall, these kinds of embroidered coats of arms from Boston were marked on the fabric before being embroidered with color instructions. The threads were probably imported from England, and the girls' choices were governed by what their families could afford. Heraldic embroidery provided the perfect forum for displaying needlework, education, leisure, status, elite heritage, and family allegiance. Nearly all the Boston coats of arms appear to be in basically the same form, but the earlier ones seem to be more lavishly embroidered in metallic material. These have been mistaken for hatchments, the coats of arms of the deceased which were often painted on black backgrounds and carried in funeral procession, hung in churches, and placed on the exterior of the deceased's house. However there is no evidence that these embroidered coats of arms were associated with funeral rituals although their shape and black backgrounds were probably inspired by funeral hatchments. According to research by Betty Ring in 1991, this work was probably made by Elizabeth Ross (c.1750-1831), the daughter of Captain Alexander and Elizabeth Duguild Ross of Falmouth, Maine, circa 1768, probably under the tutelage of the Misses Cuming of Boston. Anne and Elizabeth Cuming took over Jannette Day's school in Boston upon her departure for England in 1768 and advertised instruction in "coats of arms." They ran the school until 1776 when the British army left Boston and they moved to Nova Scotia. In 1769, Elizabeth Ross married William Tyng (1737-1809) who had been born in Boston and moved to Falmouth in 1767. They were childless and their principal heir was Elizabeth's niece, their adopted daughter, Eliza Heddle (c.1775-1837). Eliza married Rev. Timothy Hilliard (1776-1842) in 1801, and the coat of arms descended in the Hilliard family until sold by a dealer to Historic Deerfield. Hilliard family tradition claimed that it was the Tyng family coat of arms, as written on the back: "Coat of Arms of the Tyng Family received from the Estate of Mabel Harlow" and signed "J. H. Hilliard." Also written is "Received the Coat of Arms December 14, 1942" signed "William S. Hilliard," who was from Old Town, Maine. Elizabeth Ross's portrait by John Singleton Copley, circa 1766, is at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, which also descended from Eliza Heddle Hilliard to her son, William Tyng Hilliard; to his daughter Mrs. H.S. Harlow; to her daughter, Mabel Harlow of Boston before 1915; to Herbert Lawton of Boston; and sold at American-Anderson Galleries, NY, in 1937 (#347) to Maxim Karolik; to the MFA in 1939.

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