Friday 18 October 2013

Finisht With Virgin Thought @ Sotheby's New York * 23 October 2013

Another very fascinating item for auction at Sotheby's in New York on 23 October is this English sampler of circa 1660, which is Lot 265 and has an estimate of $80,000 - $120,000. It is described as having: a large central panel worked with ladies bearing enormous flowerheads in pink and blue robes, their faces of white button-hole stitch with facial characteristics, flaps to each side similarly worked and enclosing boxer-like figures in pink and green, border bands of acorns and blooms worked in cross-stitch and outlined with raised silver thread chain-stich, other bands with gobelin stitch blooms, leaves in polychrome silks infilled with a variety of designs normally associated with blackwork, raisedwork negro hunter with raised bow, lions, stags, dragons, horses, insects, dogs, a highly detailed band with more button hole stitched boxers holding blooms, fierce lion, scarlet squirrel, spiders, minutely worked pots of blooms and acorn bands higlighted with silver thread, the verse at the base worked in polychrome cross-stitch. It is framed and measures 36.75" x 12.5" (93.35 cm x 31.75 cm).

Of course my eye goes straight to the ladies who are perhaps bearing fans, as opposed to flower heads - though they may be festival garlands or bouquets if we interpret by analogy with the young gentleman boxers - seen at the base of the sampler (see penultimate image below.)
It is exciting to see another trio of ladies on a sampler as others do exist, notably on this sampler (F440) in the Micheal and Elizabeth Feller Collection (Volume I). However, the ladies on the Sotheby's sampler you will have noticed, I'm sure, seems to be an interloper - spliced into a narrower sampler for some reason. Maybe you have some thoughts on this that you would like to share?
My eye was drawn next by this elaborate polychrome band with an number of animals and particulary marked by a hunter with a bow and arrow on the left hand side. This rare band does exist on just a few other samplers, most noticeably on a sampler in the Goodhart collection at Montacute House. And if we compare this Goodhart sampler with the Sotheby's example we can see many bands in common, such as the polychrome in-filled blackwork band below the hunter in the Sotheby's sampler and above in the Goodhart. In fact the Sotheby's sampler seems to have flipped the almost identical bands in the Goodhart one. It is so exciting that we are able to start linking samplers now!

Here you can see the inscription at the base of the Sotheby's sampler: These Are The Practis of MI/ Youth Entitled BY The Name Of Truth With Care and Cost I/ These Have I Wrought And ht/Finisht It With Virgin Thoug (having run out of space, the last two letters have been squeezed into the line above). Again it is fascinating to ponder this motivation and speculate how prevalent it was amongst schoolgirl stitchers of the 17th century.

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