Schoolgirl Art from the Textile Collection

Cotsen 23630

There are not many samplers in Cotsen’s textile collection, but these three give you some idea of the variety there. This Scottish “butcloath” was made by Elizabeth McLallen in 1813.  She stitched the names of William and Katren Wodderspoon  just below the multiplication table 1-12 and filled up the space below with an urn, a stylized flower arrangement, a tree, and a symbol I don’t recognize in the lower the hand corner.  The border design seems to include a tea pot!

Cotsen 40689

American samplers have distinct regional styles and many examples that can be assigned to schools in particular towns by an expert.  There is no clue as to where the maker, fifteen-year-old Martha Andrew Arthur, might have lived or what school she may have attended.  She does date it to July 1833.  The upper third of the sheet has been filled with figures of angels, Jesus, and two girls presenting him with gifts of books or needlework.  Could they be Martha and her sister?  In the middle appears a poem “On this fair sampler does my needle write,” a favorite text for stitchery, addressed to her parents.  Below that are urns, exploding with flowers and at the bottom a field where a shepherd tends his sheep, while angels watch.  A border of flowers encloses all the figures.

Cotsen 27044, a colorful example of Berlin work, was made in Toluca, Mexico by Conception Castillo in 1856.  It reflects a shift in taste around the middle of the nineteenth century, from a naïve, figurative style of needlework, to bold, geometric patterns.  Apparently it the fashion didn’t take long to cross the Atlantic into the New World.

I’d be grateful for any information on these lovely examples of young ladies’ artistic expression!

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