Sampler: Embroidered Picture

Hungry chicks in a central nest are fed by enormous birds, attended by a variety of smaller birds and butterflies. A profusion of flowers with colored outlines and serrate leaves arise from spindly trunks. Below, on an abstract patchwork of paving stones, a flock of sheep is between a boy with a dog and a girl at a well in front of a house.

Made by Caroline E. Bieber, American, 1827 - 1885. Under the direction of Elizabeth B. Mason, American, 1797 - 1875.

Geography:
Made in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1843

Medium:
Plain weave linen embroidered in wool and silk in tent, seed, and cross stitches

Dimensions:
22 1/4 x 28 1/2 inches (56.5 x 72.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1999-173-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of Joan and Victor Johnson, 1999

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Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Until the mid-nineteenth century, girls were taught to stitch at school as training for domestic life. A girl as young as four could work a sampler with the cross-stitch alphabets and numbers that were used to mark familial linens. By the time she was in her early teens, she could create showy samplers with pious verses or elaborate but purely decorative needlework pictures. These ornately stitched works were meant to be proudly displayed, exhibiting not only her skill with the needle but also her industry and artistic taste.

    A schoolmistress often designed her pupils’ compositions, which reflected the patterns she had learned or the style preferred by the local community. Elizabeth B. Mason, who designed this lavish picture, taught needlework at the school she and her husband ran in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Displaying the colorful aesthetic of the Lehigh Valley, the needlework made under her supervision features abundant flowers and foliage, either serving as a deep border or, as here, dominating the picture. This densely packed composition, in schoolgirl Caroline Bieber’s tiny, meticulous stitches, is interspersed with enormous birds feeding a nest of chicks and smaller birds and butterflies. Below, a flock of sheep grazes on an abstract patchwork of paving stones, flanked by a boy with a dog and girl at a well, who dwarfs the building beside her.

    An interest in needlework was manifest at the Museum from its founding year, when an elaborate Spanish sampler was acquired. In 1904 the Museum organized the first exhibition of samplers in the United States. The collection now includes nearly seven hundred samplers and embroidered pictures. This impressive object enhances already extensive holdings of schoolgirl embroidery from Pennsylvania, including important eighteenth-century Philadelphia examples and Pennsylvania German work from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. H. Kristina Haugland, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 66.