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Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

 

This article first appeared on The Western Daily Press

Market Value - Duncan Phillips

Take a second look when you see a dusty framed needlework hanging in the corner of your local antiques shop. If it looks like a child’s early attempt at tapestry, it’s robably a “sampler”, meaning “an example”, from the Latin “exemplum”, or the old French term “essamplaire”. These charming pieces of history have been passed down generations of families and deserve closer inspection.

Visit the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair next week, March 15-16, and you’ll find John and Erna Hiscock offering a variety of rare and early samplers. Their fascinating collection will include two fine examples by sisters, samplers that have escaped fading and damage and have been cherished for the past 200 years. Look closely and you’ll see they are proudly inscribed with the name of the maker, either Ann or Jane Barter, and beautifully embellished with lots of decorative motifs and a verse. These pieces of domestic history are also dated: 1836. A little research has revealed that the sisters probably lived in Collingborne Ducis in Wiltshire. Erna Hiscock, who is delighted to have discovered and owned these pieces before finding them a new home, has been dealing in samplers for more than 30 years and is widely recognised as one of the country’s foremost authorities in early needlework.

As Erna will explain, long before the introduction of books, embroiderers and lacemakers needed a way to record their stitches and designs. The answer was to create a sample – a personal reference piece featuring patterns and techniques that could be copied to new pieces. Today, the term “sampler” has now become generic to all kinds of tapestry design, naïve and however accomplished.

Of course, all those years ago, needlework skills were very important for the future management of a girl’s household, and for personal adornment and for her family. They also showed off a young girl’s skills, no doubt much to the delight of her family.

Most samplers you will come across today date from later than 1700. The years have taken their toll and surviving examples of very early pieces are extremely rare. When you do find them, they are typically filled with rows of repeating patterns worked in coloured silks, sometimes interspersed with figures or floral motifs.

Generally, these early examples feature one of two kinds of needlework exercise: “spot samplers” with randomly placed individual motifs, and “band samplers” that were worked with an arrangement of border patterns. For more evidence there are a few surviving pattern books such as Richard Shorleyker’s A Schole-House For The Needle of 1624, in which he advertises “sundry sortes of spots, as flowers, Birdes and Fishes, &c”.

Samplers often feature complete alphabets, which girls could learn and practice before the marking sheets, undergarments and other personal items that were embroidered with the owner’s name, so they came back to their right person after wash day (rather like sewing your name into a school blazer.) And, of course, spot motifs and border patterns could be used to decorate both clothes and domestic furnishings like cushions, blankets and baby clothes.

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

A pair of fine samplers by Ann and Jane Barter probably from Collingborne
Ducis in Wiltshire dated 1836. Photos: Erna & John Hiscock at The Bath
Decorative Antiques Fair.

Many of the motifs that appear on later 17th-century samplers are versions – modified by repeated copying and adaptation – of those in earlier pattern books, suggesting the continued popularity of traditional designs. One of the more curious of these designs is the small figure that became known as “the boxer”. Originally derived from the motif of a lover offering a flower to his lady, this figure – always with one upturned arm, as if ready to fight – is found in 16th-century pattern books, yet still appears in samplers from the mid-17th century and well into the next.

By the early 18th century, the sampler evolved to become a squarer shape, the proportions of a picture, and they often combined a variety of needlework skills. The result was something that could be proudly displayed on the wall rather than kept rolled up as a long, narrow reference piece. Motifs of birds, small animals, flowers and trees were arranged to produce a balanced picture. A depiction of a house and garden, personalised with added local detail, such as a windmill or dovecot, was a favourite subject. Samplers could be displayed as a record of achievement.

By the 19th century, samplers were used in education, schoolgirls produced needlework exercises of almanacs, mathematical tables and maps, as well as numbers and letters.

For instance, they became an excellent way of teaching geography, although most were inaccurate because children copied and drew the outlines themselves.

As the years progressed, samplers were increasingly embroidered on woollen rather than linen grounds. A woollen surface could easily be worked with the diminishing range of stitches in a young girl’s repertoire, with tent (diagonal) stitch and cross stitch beginning to dominate. But linen was retained as a ground for a particular type of sampler worked in a kind of needle lace called “Hollie Point”. Based on patterns or letters formed with tiny buttonhole stitches, this intricate skill was used to create the highly decorated baby clothes.

Of course, the rise of the machine age throughout the Victorian period brought about a rapid decline in personal needlework skills. Needlework guilds and art schools helped to keep needlework alive and samplers and tapestries from the Arts & Crafts period are increasingly sought after. Sadly, I fear today many of us can do little more than sew a button.

In the West Country, one of the foremost collections of samplers is held at the Wells & Mendip Museum. The Samplers Room presents a selection of the museum’s collection of over 120 samplers, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Visit the annual Bath Decorative Antiques and discover more than 40 dealers, most from the West Country and showing a vast range of pieces for interior design, decoration and special collections. 

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Duncan Phillips is a fine art and antiques collector and writer

 

FOLLOW THIS ORGANISER:
 
facebook Twitter Insta  

Visit;

ANF Calendar for future fair dates

Fairs + Dealers - The Bath Decorative Antiques Fair

Fairs + Dealers to read more about Cooper Events



ANF News

Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

 

This article first appeared on The Western Daily Press

Market Value - Duncan Phillips

Take a second look when you see a dusty framed needlework hanging in the corner of your local antiques shop. If it looks like a child’s early attempt at tapestry, it’s robably a “sampler”, meaning “an example”, from the Latin “exemplum”, or the old French term “essamplaire”. These charming pieces of history have been passed down generations of families and deserve closer inspection.

Visit the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair next week, March 15-16, and you’ll find John and Erna Hiscock offering a variety of rare and early samplers. Their fascinating collection will include two fine examples by sisters, samplers that have escaped fading and damage and have been cherished for the past 200 years. Look closely and you’ll see they are proudly inscribed with the name of the maker, either Ann or Jane Barter, and beautifully embellished with lots of decorative motifs and a verse. These pieces of domestic history are also dated: 1836. A little research has revealed that the sisters probably lived in Collingborne Ducis in Wiltshire. Erna Hiscock, who is delighted to have discovered and owned these pieces before finding them a new home, has been dealing in samplers for more than 30 years and is widely recognised as one of the country’s foremost authorities in early needlework.

As Erna will explain, long before the introduction of books, embroiderers and lacemakers needed a way to record their stitches and designs. The answer was to create a sample – a personal reference piece featuring patterns and techniques that could be copied to new pieces. Today, the term “sampler” has now become generic to all kinds of tapestry design, naïve and however accomplished.

Of course, all those years ago, needlework skills were very important for the future management of a girl’s household, and for personal adornment and for her family. They also showed off a young girl’s skills, no doubt much to the delight of her family.

Most samplers you will come across today date from later than 1700. The years have taken their toll and surviving examples of very early pieces are extremely rare. When you do find them, they are typically filled with rows of repeating patterns worked in coloured silks, sometimes interspersed with figures or floral motifs.

Generally, these early examples feature one of two kinds of needlework exercise: “spot samplers” with randomly placed individual motifs, and “band samplers” that were worked with an arrangement of border patterns. For more evidence there are a few surviving pattern books such as Richard Shorleyker’s A Schole-House For The Needle of 1624, in which he advertises “sundry sortes of spots, as flowers, Birdes and Fishes, &c”.

Samplers often feature complete alphabets, which girls could learn and practice before the marking sheets, undergarments and other personal items that were embroidered with the owner’s name, so they came back to their right person after wash day (rather like sewing your name into a school blazer.) And, of course, spot motifs and border patterns could be used to decorate both clothes and domestic furnishings like cushions, blankets and baby clothes.

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

A pair of fine samplers by Ann and Jane Barter probably from Collingborne
Ducis in Wiltshire dated 1836. Photos: Erna & John Hiscock at The Bath
Decorative Antiques Fair.

Many of the motifs that appear on later 17th-century samplers are versions – modified by repeated copying and adaptation – of those in earlier pattern books, suggesting the continued popularity of traditional designs. One of the more curious of these designs is the small figure that became known as “the boxer”. Originally derived from the motif of a lover offering a flower to his lady, this figure – always with one upturned arm, as if ready to fight – is found in 16th-century pattern books, yet still appears in samplers from the mid-17th century and well into the next.

By the early 18th century, the sampler evolved to become a squarer shape, the proportions of a picture, and they often combined a variety of needlework skills. The result was something that could be proudly displayed on the wall rather than kept rolled up as a long, narrow reference piece. Motifs of birds, small animals, flowers and trees were arranged to produce a balanced picture. A depiction of a house and garden, personalised with added local detail, such as a windmill or dovecot, was a favourite subject. Samplers could be displayed as a record of achievement.

By the 19th century, samplers were used in education, schoolgirls produced needlework exercises of almanacs, mathematical tables and maps, as well as numbers and letters.

For instance, they became an excellent way of teaching geography, although most were inaccurate because children copied and drew the outlines themselves.

As the years progressed, samplers were increasingly embroidered on woollen rather than linen grounds. A woollen surface could easily be worked with the diminishing range of stitches in a young girl’s repertoire, with tent (diagonal) stitch and cross stitch beginning to dominate. But linen was retained as a ground for a particular type of sampler worked in a kind of needle lace called “Hollie Point”. Based on patterns or letters formed with tiny buttonhole stitches, this intricate skill was used to create the highly decorated baby clothes.

Of course, the rise of the machine age throughout the Victorian period brought about a rapid decline in personal needlework skills. Needlework guilds and art schools helped to keep needlework alive and samplers and tapestries from the Arts & Crafts period are increasingly sought after. Sadly, I fear today many of us can do little more than sew a button.

In the West Country, one of the foremost collections of samplers is held at the Wells & Mendip Museum. The Samplers Room presents a selection of the museum’s collection of over 120 samplers, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Visit the annual Bath Decorative Antiques and discover more than 40 dealers, most from the West Country and showing a vast range of pieces for interior design, decoration and special collections. 

Antiques News & Fairs - Market Value with Duncan Phillips

Duncan Phillips is a fine art and antiques collector and writer

 

FOLLOW THIS ORGANISER:
 
facebook Twitter Insta  

Visit;

ANF Calendar for future fair dates

Fairs + Dealers - The Bath Decorative Antiques Fair

Fairs + Dealers to read more about Cooper Events