When I first saw this sampler, I’m not sure if I was more impressed by the quality of the teeny stitches, the selected motifs, the composition, or the age of the child who accomplished it. Charlotte Lee was just 11 years old when she completed the sampler. I remember making some pin cushions and needle cases when I was this age; but I have to admit the stitching wasn’t even on the same planet compared to that here.
I love the traditional colors that Charlotte chose for her work of art. Her palette of golds, greens, browns and soft teal blue harmonize well with each other and compliment all the intricate designs.
Charlotte set up her sampler with an exceptionally large flowered border that runs around the edge, but she left enough space so that each flower can be enjoyed individually, as though they were her main motifs, rather than part of a joined series of flowers that form her border. Our stitcher set up her motifs to face each other down the central panel. She chose to put her name, age and date up high above her motifs; no doubt because she was so proud of her work and wanted everyone to see it first. This placement is unusual, but then so is this sampler.
Charlotte has several bunches of hanging grapes to start her rows of motifs. There is a small fruit basket in the middle. By the time she got to her second row of motifs, she made a much better effort in the creation of two fabulous peacocks in full plumage that face each other with two trees in between. I think by the time she came to her third set of motifs, she performed even more spectacularly than she had up to now. The pair of fruit baskets with several types of fruit in them, as well as fluttering butterflies around them, are delightful and a joy to look at. She was in full stride exhibiting her skills by the time she stitched the two large sitting cats upon cushions with tassels. These are expertly and finely stitched with even, long threads to show whiskers on the cat’s faces. In between this set of marvelous motifs sits a sprig of flowers beset by a pair of small birds.
The end result of her talent in stitching and creativity, as well as her wonderful choices of motifs to embroider and her highly developed color sense and spacing, sets this sophisticated sampler years above many done by her contemporaries. And after all, Charlotte was only 11 when she did this. I would love to be able to see a work of hers that she would have done ten years later.
This piece is exquisitely stitched with fine counted cross stitches that are as fine as teeny pettipoint and attract and hold your attention. The fact that she stitched it on a very fine linen ground makes it even more appealing and keeps the stitches tiny throughout. All of her motifs were well-chosen and work well with one another. The border of large flowers could almost function as individual flower motifs rather than their designated purpose of enclosing her beautiful work.
This sampler was finished only two years after Victoria came to her throne, so many of the motifs were extensively used in earlier, Georgian samplers, as the books that the children used would have been printed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; hence, this one has the feel of a much earlier piece of embroidery than its date of 1839.
The condition is superb. There is overall age toning, which has turned the very fine linen ground a pleasing shade of gold, adding to its antique character. There are no stains or insect damage, which is rare in itself. The silk floss has retained much of its luminosity.
The sampler is housed in its original faux painted wood frame that was painted to look somewhat like a cross between tortoise shell and walnut. It has its original narrow, rounded gilded edge that has turned a beautiful soft shade of lemon-yellow. The frame has a few losses of veneer, but nothing unexpected in a piece that is nearly 180 years old.
I can heartily recommend this sampler for one’s collection as a rare and beautiful piece of schoolgirl needlework.
It measures 15 inches wide by 19 inches high, including the frame.
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