Rare May Morris curtains saved for Scotland

National Museums Scotland has bought a pair of rare embroidered hangings by May Morris with support from the Art Fund.

May Morris, embroidered wall hangings, c. 1900 National Museums Scotland

May Morris, embroidered wall hangings, c. 1900

Worked by May Morris herself with her friend and patron Theodosia Middlemore, the pair of hangings follows an 1891 design created for May's father, William Morris. The design was originally devised for a set of bed curtains to hang in William's home at Kelmscott Manor – embroidered at Morris & Co under May's supervision, the original hangings were completed shortly before William Morris's death in 1896, and remain at Kelmscott Manor today.

The hangings acquired by National Museums Scotland are a second pair, and were unrecorded until their sale at Christie's in 2013; they're the only other hangings known to have been created in the Kelmscott design. May created this second pair for Melsetter, a house owned by the Middlemore family on the island of Hoy in Orkney. May Morris visited Melsetter several times, and the pair of hangings she created for the house seem to be an entirely personal project, unrelated to her work as head of the Morris & Co embroidery workshop.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'Given their significance to the Arts & Crafts Movement in Scotland, we are delighted to support the National Museums Scotland in acquiring these works. Their inventive designs will beautifully animate the new permanent gallery spaces.'

The hangings were placed under an export bar following their sale at auction in 2013, and were successfully acquired for the national collections in June 2014. They will be displayed alongside Melsetter furniture in the National Museum of Scotland's 'Design for Living' gallery, a new display exploring the development of design between and 1850 and 1960, which will open to the public in 2016.

Venue details

National Museum of Scotland Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1JF 0300 123 6789 www.nms.ac.uk

Entry details

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26 Dec and 1 Jan, 12 – 5pm

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