Betty Ring's own collection of samplers is now on display at Sotheby's New York in advance of its sale by auction this Sunday, January 22. The exhibit/auction is entitled Important American Schoolgirl Embroideries: The Landmark Collection of Betty Ring. I was extremely fortunate in being able to visit the exhibit yesterday and all I can say is - WOW! There are more than 200 pieces in this exhibit and each one is a gem of its own.
Many of the needlework on display are "mourning pictures" which generally are embroidered on painted silk. It is amazing to see the beauty of the stitches while realizing that girls and women undertook these as memorials for family members who had passed away, many of them babies and children.
Traditional samplers also abound and, since these are more to my taste than the mourning pictures, I was truly in heaven as I wandered the gallery soaking in the beauty. These pieces range from simple Quaker designs to complex band samplers, from small pieces (about 6 inches by 4 inches) to large (34 inches by 28 inches). I was awestruck by the accomplishments of all these women who had come before me.
This picture is one of the samplers on display. I want to thank Emily Bergland in Sotheby’s Press Office for providing this image to me for use on this blog.
Fine and Rare Silk Embroidered Sampler, Abigail Prince,
Newburyport, Massachusetts, dated 1801, Abigail Prince
If you are in the New York area and are as fascinated by samplers as I am, I highly recommend dropping everything and getting over there tomorrow. The auction is scheduled for Noon on Sunday. Perhaps this is your chance to own a piece of history.
By the way, there is an exhibition catalogue available. I purchased mine in advance of the exhibit and so had it available while viewing the pieces. The catalogue itself is a wonderful addition to my needlework reference library. I am planning on pulling out my copy of Girlhood Embroidery along with the catalogue so that I can reacquaint myself with the stories of these wonderful pieces.
The catalogue is available through Sotheby's website. Links are also provided to Betty Ring's Girlhood Embroidery Volumes I and II and American NeedleworkTreasures.
I'm going to close this post with two quotes from Colin Eisler's review of Girlhood Embroidery published in Magazine Antiques in September 1994. "Only recently have art historians begun to appreciate the key role of the pictorial embroiderer - whether that of the individuals who stitched the Bayeux tapestry in the eleventh century or of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the sixteenth century." He continues "After a century of snobbery, the decorative arts are seen, once agin, for what they are - the staff of life."
How satisfying that our hobby, what we love to do, continues that history.