This wonderful sampler was worked in fine silk thread, mostly in shades of red, pink, orange and green with a touch of blue. These primary colors, no doubt some of the young stitcher’s favorites, were done in such a way as to balance the sampler, resulting in a more exciting and colorful work of art.
Rebecca Portes was only 12 years of age when she completed this intricate embroidery. She used counted cross stitch and buttonhole stitch with luminous silk floss on fine linen. She seemed to enjoy flowers and potted plants, placing them across the top, middle, sides and bottom of her sampler, with the largest example having birds flitting in and around it. In fact, she used various types of birds throughout, including exotic ones.
One of my favorite areas of this sampler is near the bottom, where Rebecca stitched vignettes all across, part of a wide border that was solidly filled in with counted cross stitch. Within this border are geese, pairs of dogs, evergreen trees, flowers and her favorite motif, flowering jardinières. She also sprinkled hearts here and there to fill any empty spaces.
There are two mottoes just below the middle of the sampler that seem way beyond her years considering her tender age: “Let me die the death of the righteous. And let my last end like his.” Inasmuch as medical knowledge was limited at the time, the concept of death was made very apparent to even the youngest child. However, there seems to me to be a disconnect between Rebecca’s choices of the bright colors and the presence of death that she must have felt. Even her larger verse at the top of the sampler speaks of departing this earth. Surely, a more colorful example could not be found that connects on such a level with the sentiments of the time concerning death and dying. We can only admire the fine quality of the sampler and leave these questions as part of an unsolved mystery.
Indeed, our needleworker was quite skilled for her young age. Her stitches and rows are even, and her gauge was expertly done. The design of her sampler exhibits a talent for placement, composition and symmetry. Rebecca used a very small scrolling border that seems more of an afterthought as it is so narrow and tiny as opposed to everything else in her sampler.
I believe the sampler is housed in its original, hand-painted, striped wood frame. The frame itself was artistically crafted and lends an additional festive air to the piece.
The sampler is in excellent condition for its age of nearly 200 years. I believe that at some time it was re-stretched and re-fitted into its frame. There are some thin parts of the linen where the weave has separated and there are a few places where repairs were undertaken on it. It has age toned throughout to a light golden color that imparts a further antique character to this fabulous work.
The frame is in excellent condition as well. The hand-painted finish was varnished at one time or another and has kept the pattern and coloring in very good shape. It still has a nice, soft glow to it.
It measures 18-3/4 inches wide and 25-7/8 inches high, including the frame.
Large William IV Silkwork Sampler Dated 1825