Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

A Selection of Samplers

In the 18th century girls at a very young age made SAMPLERS which served not only to master stitches but also to learn numbers and the letters of the alphabet and to reinforce religious beliefs and ideas of proper behavior.

ELIZABETH RHODES of Rhode Island made
this sampler during the decade 1770-1780.
Simple in design, it features the alphabet
and numbers from one to ten, and includes
her initials. She used a cross stitch on
linen fabric.

(Courtesy of the Rhode Island Historical Society.)

MARTHA GRAY. who lived in Philadelphia, was between seven and nine years old when she created the beautiful sampler on the right (1779). She used wool thread in cross and tent stitches on open hole canvas, not woven fabric. Quite an accomplishment for one so young.

(Credit: Daughters of the American Republic Museum.)

In 1789, HESTER VANDERBURGH of New Rochelle, New York made the above sampler with a religious motif. Pictured in a domestic setting that includes a house; two trees, one of which is laden with apples; birds; a dog and a deer; are two figures most likely intended to portray Adam and Eve. The twelve-year-old girl used silk thread worked in a cross stitch.

(In the DAR Museum.)

BETSEY CHASE, in 1789, using cotton thread worked in a cross stitch on linen fabric, copied a verse intended to remind her of her mortality. On the top and bottom is the alphabet. The words in the center are “Betsey Chase age ten years now in the bloom of youth prepare for death.” Nice thought!! No information about where she lived.

(At the Rhode Island Historical Society)

See other samplers HERE.

posted August 16th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Children,Samplers

Embroidery

One of the accomplishments expected of proper young girls was skill with a needle. From an early age they applied themselves either in school or under the direction of a female family member. Below are some examples of their embroidery. Not in the words of women, but this time in the hands of women.

This beautiful piece of
embroidery was made by
SARAH WISTAR, a Quaker
girl from Philadelphia,
in 1752 when she was
between 13 and 15 years
old. The flowering tree
and the bird are obvious.
Look for the rabbit under
the tree.
Owned by Winterthur.

SARAH DERBY from Salem, Massachusetts, embroidered this silk and paint landscape triptych some time between 1763-1766 at the age 19 or 20. Owned by Winterthur.

ANN FLOWER, from Philadelphia,
embroidered the gorgeous coat
of arms (on the right) in 1763
when she was 19 or 20 years old.
Owned by Winterthur.

RACHEL THAXTER of Hingham Massachusetts embroidered the charming scene on the left in 1796 when she was only 10-12 years old. Owned by Winterthur.

Do browse other examples of embroidery from this ARCHIVE.

posted August 14th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Children,Embroidery

Washington’s Encampment at Verplanck 1782

Having recently visited the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and written about it in this post, I am tempted to return to see a special limited-run exhibit there from January 13 to February 19. On display will be a newly discovered seven-foot-long watercolor painting of Washington’s Encampment in Verplanck, New York, on the banks of Hudson River in 1782. The meticulously detailed painting by Pierre Charles L’Enfant shows the tents of various regiments and on a hilltop the only known wartime depiction of George Washington’s traveling canvas headquarters tent. The actual tent is a prize artifact at the Museum of the American Revolution. Below is the part of the panoramic painting that shows Washington’s tent.

Read about the discovery of this painting in this New York Times article.

I am excited about this painting not only because the Verplanck Encampment is in the Lower Hudson Valley where I live but also because it is directly across from the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site of which my friend Julia Warger is the manager. She is over the moon about this discovery and she and her staff are poring over a highly enlarged reproduction of a section of the watercolor she received from the Philadelphia Museum.

Stony Point is the scene of the battle in which Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, on July 16, 1779, led his troops in a daring midnight attack on the British garrison seizing its fortifications and taking the soldiers and camp followers prisoners. The site is also the location of the Hudson River’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1826. Presently decommissioned it’s worth seeing if only for the spectacular view it affords up and down the river.

posted December 4th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Battles,L'Enfant, Pierre Charles,Museums,Primary sources,Stony Point Battlefield,Verplanck Encampment,Washington, George,Wayne, Brigadier General Anthony

“And breathing figures learnt from thee to live”

Another item of interest about SARAH MOORHEAD (see previous posts) is her connection to a slave of the family called Scipio who is thought to have been a talented working artist around 1773. Sarah was a teacher of drawing and painting so it is possible, even likely, that she recognized his talent and was his teacher. But the only piece of art ascribed to Scipio Moorhead that has survived is the portrait of Phillis Wheatley, on the frontispiece of her published book of poetry: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773). (See posts on Wheatley here, here, here, here. here, and here.) A poem, “To S.M., A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works,” written by this enslaved African-American poet has been cited as evidence that the engraving was made from a painting by Moorhead. (A note by a white reader in an early copy of the book mentions Scipio by name.)

When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live,
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight!

It is true that the Moorheads and the Wheatleys were neighbors and that the two slaves knew each other. However, the assumption that Scipio is the artist of the frontispiece has been challenged by Eric Slauter, author of the article “Looking for Scipio Moorhead” in Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World. He presents evidence based on the Scipio’s age, his contact with other painters, the current styles in portraiture, and his appearance in ads for the auctioning of the estate of John Moorhead and that of his daughter Mary. The historian J.L. Bell, in his blog Boston 1775, is quite persuaded that Slauter is right. He suggests that an another black artist working at the time with several works attributed to him, Prince Demah, may have been the actual artist of the Wheatley portrait. See two posts by my colleague Louise North on Prince Demah here and here.

Eric Slauter’s article appears in Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World, edited by Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, Angela Rosenthal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 89. Read the complete poem HERE.

posted August 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Moorhead, Scipio,Poetry,Prince Demah,Wheatley, Phillis

Sarah Moorhead’s Canvaswork Picture

SARAH PARSONS MOORHEAD was a Boston poet and and artist (ca 1710-1774). Her husband was the prominent minister John Morehead (there are alternate spellings to their name) and her poems concern the religious revival of the 1740s. But I am interested here in her work as an artist and designer. This ad appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1748.

“Trades and Occupations JAPANNING—Drawing, Japanning, and Painting on Glass taught by Mrs. Sarah Morehead, at the Head of the Rope-walks, near Fort Hill.”

Japanning referred to Asian lacquerwork which became popular in Europe and America in the 18th century, local artisans creating works to meet the increasing demand.

Two antiques dealers specializing in textiles, recently purchased an example of an early Boston canvaswork and found the name of Sarah Moorhead inscribed under the sand liner. It was originally thought to be her work but noted needlework historian Betty Ring believes that Moorhead was the designer for this piece rather than the maker since other works similar to this were worked by youngsters suggesting that Moorhead was the designer, and perhaps their teacher.

During the 1760s and ’70s American women, boycotting British products, began making and wearing homespun garments. Spinning groups, organized by parishioners, often met in churches. One group met in the home of the Moorheads so it seems fair to conclude that Sarah personally sympathized with the Patriot resistance.

Boston Evening Post, April 18, 1748; and published in George Francis Dow, The Arts & Crafts in New England 1704–1775, Gleanings From Boston Newspapers (Topsfield, Mass.: Wayside Press, 1927), 267. Other sources include Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World edited by Agnes Lugo-Ortiz and Angela Rosenthal (New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Antiques and Fine Arts Magazine “Sarah Moorhead Canvaswork Picture.”

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