This large embroidered Berlin wool work hearth rug was hand-crafted by Elizabeth Austin in the 1880s.
This large embroidery, in Berlin wool work on a loose-weave canvas panel, features a central cartouche of English flowers including lily-of-the-valley, roses, peonies, forget-me-nots and bluebells, surrounded by a floral border which includes the Austin family crest, Ne Quid Nimis (nothing in excess).
When the backing was removed the original colours, which had been fully protected from the fading effects of light, were perfectly preserved. These include intense pink, orange, cobalt, purple, red and green, of remarkably high key. Mrs. Austin’s evident love of vivid colours was not unique to her.
Elizabeth Austin must have spent hundreds of hours creating this panel, which is over three metres long and about half as wide. Many of the mass-produced charts on which such designs were based were made in England, although the family crest and motto in this example suggest Elizabeth made her own adaptations.
We do not know exactly when she undertook the embroidery, but after the death of her husband Thomas in 1871, Elizabeth, despite undertaking significant philanthropic works such as the founding of the Austin Hospital in 1882, led a relatively secluded widowhood in just four rooms at Barwon Park. Her lifestyle would probably have allowed ample leisure time for a large project such as this.
One month after her death in 1910 Elizabeth’s descendants held a clearing sale at Barwon Park. The auction catalogue includes a ‘Hand worked Hearth Rug’ in the drawing room; this may be the tapestry.