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Embroidered hangings saved for nation at a cost of £61,000

TWO rare pieces of embroidery have been saved for the nation by the National Museums of Scotland.

rare WORK: The embroidered hangings by May Morris date back to around 1900. Picture: Gordon Terris
rare WORK: The embroidered hangings by May Morris date back to around 1900. Picture: Gordon Terris

The embroidered hangings by the 'Arts and Crafts' era designer, May Morris, will remain on display in Edinburgh after being stopped from going to a foreign buyer by the use of an export bar.

The hangings cost £61,770. They were made around 1900 by May Morris, the daughter of the designer, William Morris, the father of the Arts and Crafts movement. The acquisition has been made possible with funding from the Art Fund and the NMS Charitable Trust.

The Art Fund awarded £30,000, £15,000 came from NMS Charitable Trust and the balance came from the NMS own purchase grant.

The hangings had been sold at auction but a temporary export bar was placed on them following a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by the Arts Council of England.

National Museums Scotland acquired the embroideries for the national collections in June.

Both hangings are of the same design worked in different soft pastel colours and stitches, with a central tree between rosebushes and floral trails and birds against a square trellis background. The foreground of each panel includes a robin and rabbit.

The embroideries are one of only two known examples of this design, the other, also by May Morris, dates from 1891 for a set of bed curtains for her father's bed at Kelmscott Manor. The embroideries were created for Theodosia Mackay for her home, Melsetter House in Orkney.

Stephen Jackson, senior curator of art and design at the NMS said: "These incredibly rare textiles are a significant addition to our outstanding collections of European art and design.

"We are delighted that they will be displayed in our new galleries of Art and Design, which open to visitors in 2016."

Sir Hayden Phillips, chairman of the RCEWA, said: "It is a great achievement of National Museums Scotland to have raised the necessary funds for these rare hangings following the export deferral that was placed on them.

"Now these significant pieces by May Morris will be secured for the nation."

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