Although many schoolgirl samplers featured spiritual verses, this one is set apart due to its artfulness and the skill of the stitcher. The best part of this young lady’s sampler is the exquisite pettipoint cross stitch silk thread needlework that surrounds the verse and mesmerizes the viewer.
Each motif is fabulously embroidered in luminous silk floss on a fine linen ground. Our stitcher, Ann, has wisely chosen her motifs that surround the verse and punctuate her lines. She used a pair of flowering jardinières to anchor her upper corners, along with a smaller pair of flowering stalks with two charming dogs filling the spaces in between her upper heading.
In the middle of this first block of motifs stands still another flowering jardinière in a basket-like pot with large blooms coming out from the long stems. Flanking each side of her first verse are pretty flowers with large butterflies hovering above them. Beneath the flowers sits a pair of precious motifs that combine standing birds with branches and leaves from a shrub.
The next pair of flowers that flank the second verse are embroidered in several colors that make a pretty display. As she seemed to favor pairs of birds interspersed with large flowers, this theme continues down both sides of her sampler until the bottom section is reached, where she threw caution to the wind and place two very large trees. These trees have leaves that seem to be in solid clusters emanating from their branches. In the middle of the bottom row of motifs sits a small church with greenery around it. There are two pretty rosebuds placed on either side of this building motif, separating it from the large trees.
Since she seemed to enjoy creating myriads of silk embroidered flowers, it is no wonder she chose as large twining and undulating border, complete with triads of tulips emanating from a central stem. These marvelous floral motifs in her border are separated by large stars edged in gold silk with a center filled in cream silk.
Ann’s sense of color was superb, reflected in all her choices. This sampler was worked nearly entirely in gold, green, brown and cream with hints of blue in a few of the flowers. The verse was worked in black for clarity. Our stitcher, besides having a wonderful sense of color and design, also possessed a strong sense of symmetry. The overall placement of her motifs and her border adds to the elegant balanced and quiet feel to this exceptional piece of silk embroidery.
However wonderful the sampler is, for me part of its appeal is the fabulous, heavy, and deeply molded original gilded frame that completes this work to perfection. The soft gold color of this antique Victorian frame, set with embossed flowers in each corner along with classical elements of molded designs do a spectacular job of harmonizing with the embroidery and setting it off well.
The condition of the sampler is excellent, especially considering its age of some 170 years. There is very little age toning, but what there is has lent it a golden glow to the linen. There is some slight gray staining along some of the edges of the linen where it is in contact with the frame. There is a slight loss of the linen toward the lower left corner, although the silkwork is not affected.
The original frame is in very good condition with minor losses and has had some minor restoration in a few places over the years. The paper on the back of the sampler has a framer’s label. This framer probably refitted the Victorian sampler and frame in the early 20th century in Liverpool. The label reads: “Richard Jeffreys, 88 Bold Street, Liverpool. Estd. 1838.” Among the services offered by the firm were the following: “Carver, Gilder, and Picture Frame Manufacturer…Cornices, Glass Frames, Etc., Re-Gilded…Window Cornices…Firescreens…Girondoles, Etc.” It is this old label that leads me to believe that this sampler was re-backed at this time. There also is an orange tag with the following: “Whytock and Reid, Edinburgh….Miss Richards, 11 Anislil(?)” This prestigious antiques firm may have been the one to have sold this piece to Miss Richards at some time.
With its large, heavily embossed gilded ornate Victorian frame, its exquisite silkwork pettipoint embroidery, overall pleasing design, myriad of motifs, fine linen ground and its beautiful, harmonized colors, this sampler makes an elegant and graceful decorative statement.
It measures 18-1/4 inches wide by 23 inches high, including the frame.
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