SPOT SAMPLER INITIALED M.H.L.
German, dated 1685
As a distinct and longstanding needlework tradition, European samplers functioned primarily as aides-mémoire. In addition to their utilitarian aspect, samplers also offered the potential for a visually appealing graphic statement through the imaginative arrangement of motifs and variety of stitches. Although most often produced by young girls, samplers were originally
devised—and continued to be created—by adult women and even professionals.
The sophisticated combinations and juxtapositions of colors, patterns and stitches in this skillfully worked late seventeenth-century German sampler suggest the hand of an experienced embroiderer. The clearly defined rectangular fields of differing sizes are executed in polychrome silk
on a canvas ground in tent, rococo, cross, long-arm cross, satin, and Algerian eye stitches. Geometric forms dominate, including squares with trompe l’œil effects in gradated shades, chevrons, zigzags, diamonds, and imbricated scales. In the lower registers, individual floral motifs and a beribboned bouquet provide a harmonious counterpoint to the strict regularity of the main composition. The bouquet comprising a range of blossoms was a favorite subject that allowed the embroiderer to demonstrate her proficiency at naturalistic representation.
Pattern books were a much used source of inspiration for embroiderers in this period, and from their first appearance in Germany in the early sixteenth century, they were a commercial success. Several of the elements in this piece—both geometric and floral—relate to designs illustrated in pattern books by Rosina Fürst, published in Nuremberg. Prior to the execution of this sampler, editions of her Modelbuch appeared in 1660, 1666, and 1676. A nearly identical sampler dated 1688, in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (104-1880), is illustrated in Samplers, by Donald King (1960), pl. 65, and Samplers in the Victoria and Albert Museum, by Clare Brown and Jennifer Weardon (1999), pl. 39.
Provenance: Ex-collection Emma-Henriette Schiff von Suvero. Deaccessioned from the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, in 2003.