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spot sampler initialized M.H.L.
21.5” H x 9” W

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.

chinoiserie border with excise stamp
 

CHINOISERIE BORDER WITH EXCISE STAMP
English, ca. 1805

Influences, both cultural and political, on the production of English printed cottons are apparent in this exceptional glazed Chinoiserie border, probably printed at Bannister Hall. English decorative arts often catered to the demand for goods in the Chinese taste, a preference that was unabated during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and, as demonstrated by this cotton, found expression into the next century as well. Appropriated motifs of pagodas, bridges and Chinese figures decorate this narrow, block-printed border intended for use in Oriental-inspired English interiors.

Beginning in 1712, England imposed an excise tax on domestically manufactured printed calicoes. It was not until over one hundred years later, in 1831, that all excise duties on printed goods were repealed. Excise stamps, used by officials when collecting duties owed, rarely survive on textiles. The markings seen on a fragment of this cotton include the charge stamp and part of the frame mark. The charge stamp, with a crown and the entwined letters GR, states that the fabric is of “British Manufactury”; the number below would have identified the officer using the stamp. This imprint was applied as proof that the required duty had been paid. Also on this piece (not shown) is a portion of the frame mark—a rectangular stamp, divided into sections, each with a numeral, letter or series of numbers. In attempts by the government to prevent forgery and fraud, dates and numbers were coded and frequently changed. Within this partial frame mark, “54” is the coded date, “M” is the index letter, and the rest is the progressive serial number that identified the length of fabric.

Border: 9” H x 64” W
Stamped Piece: 9” H x 8.25” W
(details shown)

stamp on chinoiserie border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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