Designed after an embroidered panel made by Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots, was a prolific needleworker, particularly during the nineteen years of her imprisonment by Queen Elizabeth I, in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. She employed the services of many tapissiers (professional embroiderers) and artists- most famous and long lasting in her employ being Pierre Oudry, who would draw the designs onto canvas for her to execute in tent or cross stitch.
The inspiration for this cruciform-shaped design probably came from the book Icones Animalium by Conrad Gesner, published in 1560, with the addition of the little mouse. Perhaps the ginger cat is a veiled reference to the red-haired Elizabeth I who kept Mary (the mouse) her captive.
When Mary was executed in 1587, she left over three hundred needlework panels, most of them depicting flowers, birds, animals, fish, and mythological creatures taken from popular pattern books of the period, such as Gesner’s. Also see Knotted Serpentes. Mary preferred to work on smaller pieces of needlework such as this, because they were easily worked on a small, portable frame, all the simpler to complete in a short period of time, or be whisked away if the opportunity for escape arose.
This adaptation of Mary Queen of Scots’ work is executed almost entirely in cross stitch over two threads of linen.