Elizabeth Stewart, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1807


Elizabeth Stewart,

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1807

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sampler size (including ribbon): 18” x 22½” • framed size: 22¾” x 27¼” • price: $38,000

There are two samplers known to have been made in Philadelphia and they greatly resemble one another - one was made by Catharine Ann Speel in 1805 and it is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, published in The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Dilys Blum (The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1997). It depicts a gentleman standing next to a black dog, downhill from a large house with several sheep and a suite of table and chairs on the lawn. The maker’s name and those of her parents along with the year that the sampler was made appear in the center, surrounded by a cartouche-like framework. A four line verse, baskets and pots of flowers and the alphabet fill the upper register and an interesting four-sided border frames the sampler well. This sampler epitomizes the finest of early 19th century Philadelphia sampler design and workmanship. We are delighted to offer a recently discovered sampler which is greatly similar and was obviously worked at the same school – an outstanding sampler made by Elizabeth Stewart and dated 1807. Both the Speel and Stewart samplers are highly significant and visually commanding.

The Stewart sampler differs only slightly in a few of the pictorial details. It retains its original red silk ribbon edging, which lends an excellent visual element to the overall; the Speel sampler may have had a ribbon edging originally but that is no longer with the sampler. Notably, the Wikipedia page for Samplers illustrates the Speel sampler as one of only three and the only classic pictorial one. It came to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 1969, as part of the Whitman Sampler Collection.

Elizabeth Stewart states on her work that she was “in the 9 year of her age.” She was born circa 1798, the daughter of Charles and Huldah (McCrea) Stewart of Philadelphia. They were Friends and members of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Charles Stewart (c. 1769-1820) was the son of Robert Stewart of Maryland and Margaret (Warner) Stewart of Philadelphia. On her maternal side, the family can be traced back to the 17th century Philadelphia neighborhood of Germantown. Elizabeth married John Besson, a merchant, and they remained in Philadelphia. They had at least three children: Charles, Louise and Anne.

The sampler is worked in silk on linen, and, significantly, it retains its original red silk ribbon. It is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a mahogany frame. 

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