Embroidery is said to have been initiated by Minerva, and is one of the most ancient arts -
taking precedence even over painting.
Beadwork is also an "ancient art" - European beadwork dating to prehistoric times,
employing shells and animal bones.
Early ceramic and glass beadwork was used by the Egyptians
(you probably recall the broad beaded collars - "weskhets" - worn by pharoahs and gods),
as well as the varied beading worn by the Greeks and the Romans.
However, the period of current interest involves primarily the late 16th and entire 17th century.
Until the early 17th century, most embroidery was used for more practical textiles -
as tapestries, curtains and bedspreads - upon which entire families would work for months - or even years.
As machine made necessities became available c1600, the ladies of privilege could turn to more intimate canvases,
upon which they lavished a wealth of diverse stitches - often so minute that a magnifying glass was needed to distinguish them.
Whilst the earliest canvases were of tent-stitch or petit point,
in the early 17th century, stumpwork pictures came into fashion -
padding the silk embroidery with hair, remnant silk threads, or other soft materials
for very high-relief embroidery.