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Jane J. Simmons, American or English, 1817

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Period 19th Century
Creation Date 1817
Description This sampler is one of extraordinary beauty; the composition is positively lyrical, and the needlework was executed on fine linen gauze using stitching of the highest quality. A central scene creates a broad swath across the sampler – the focus is a lovely young lady seated amidst foliage and holding a sheep (detail below). Her head, with a stunning face and coiffed brown hair, is a very delicate painting of watercolor on paper that was affixed to the linen. A well pump streaming water and holding a pot of flowers anchors the scene nicely and tree trunks provide robust parenthesis to the image. Layers of lawn lead to the outstanding, fully worked area of inscription which reads, “Wrought by Jane J. Simmons in her 14th year Sept. 30th AD. 1817.”

The alphabets and verse in the upper register are very finely stitched and the sentiment is perfection: To teach the canvass innocent deceit / or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet / These, these are the arts pursued without a crime / That leave no stain upon the wing of time.” These lines were written by the celebrated English poet, William Cowper (1731-1800) as part of the poem, “Retirement.” The oval border that encloses it all is wonderfully embellished with over two hundred tiny leaves in pale blue and off-white, and further wrapped with large rose blossoms, buds and leaves, caught at the bottom with a tied bowknot.

Jane’s sampler was sold to a collector at Christie’s Important Americana Sale on January 21, 2010 (lot 170, selling price of $15,000). It was described as an American sampler from Leominster / Lancaster, Massachusetts. Further information and research had been done in regard to that designation to fully identify the samplermaker, Jane J. Simmons, and that information remains with the sampler. It certainly resembles others made in Leominster, specifically in the overall composition and the fully worked area of inscription. The sampler, in our opinion, may be American but there are elements that could lead us to attribute it to an English origin as well. While it’s hard to argue with Christie’s, we conclude that we aren’t positive of the origin. Regardless, the sampler offers much visual appeal and is one that confirms the artistry of a talented needleworker.

Worked in silk on linen with watercolor on paper for the face of the young lady, it is excellent condition with some very slight darkening to the linen. It has been conservation mounted and is in a maple beveled frame with an outer bead.

sampler size: 20½” x 19½” • framed size: 24¾” x 23¾”
Styles / Movements Americana, Folk Art, Other
Incollect Reference Number 236631
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