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Leonora Jenner’s revival of a 17th century needlework technique

This stunning embroidered picture in the manner of Stuart raised work by Leonora Jenner (1869-1952), circa 1940, was offered recently in the auction of The William H. Stokes Collection of Early Works of Art and Furniture.

This special embroidery has inspired us find out more about Leonora Jenner and why came to produce works using these 17th century techniques.

But, first the details: the sage green silk ground here features a lady and gentleman beneath a gilt net canopy held by architectural columns, the border with a swan, bat, monkey, owl, birds and insects worked in silk and metal thread with the whole piece applied with sequins, glass, ceramic and pearl beads.

Leonora was the daughter of Field Marshall Sir Donald Stewart, a distinguished soldier who served in the British Indian army. Her first marriage took place in 1894, however, after three years she was divorced with the event even reported in The Times such was the public sensation. Leonora’s world was transformed with her second marriage to Leopold Jenner, son of William Jenner, physician to Queen Victoria; she was free to drive her own car and actively support the suffragette movement.

From 1902 until 1935 Leopold and Leonora lived at Avebury, a 16th century manor house located near Marlborough, Wiltshire. The manor was built on or near the site of a Benedictine priory, founded in 1114. Over the centuries the house had been added to and remodelled and the Jenners restored what had become a somewhat neglected house back to its splendour, they added the West Library, which held Leopold’s extensive library. They also completely restructured the gardens at Avebury, adding yew and box topiary and creating various ‘rooms’. With Leopold’s historic knowledge and Leonora’s eye for colour and artistry their combined efforts made for a beautiful home and garden.

Leonora was an expert in needlecraft and she created many textiles, furnishings and embroideries for Avebury Manor. Inspired by the aesthetic of her historic home she revived the art of ‘stump work’, the 17th century style of needlework which gives a three-dimensional effect.

Leonora’s sister Fiona married Leopold’s brother, Walter, and in 1907 they bought Lyte’s Cary Manor, Somerset, to rescue it from ruin. Both couples shared a passion for the conservation and preservation  of historic buildings and Leonora soon set to work at Lyte’s Cary Manor. An impressive stumpwork mirror frame created by Leonora is still  housed in the Great Parlour of the manor, which along with Avebury Manor is now a National Trust property.

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Embroidered picture in the manner of Stuart raised work, Leonora Jenner, c. 1940
Sold for £250