Alice Lister, with unusual use of tiny feathers, England, 1787

Alice Lister, with unusual use of tiny feathers, England, 1787

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sampler size: 13” x 10½” • framed size: 15¾” x 13¼” • price: sold

A very finely worked 18th century sampler, this was made by Alice Lister in 1787 when she was aged 15. Most unusually, Alice embellished her sampler with the inclusion of tiny, iridescent blue feathers that appear on the four flower buds featured in the upper corners, these became evident to us only upon looking closely at the sampler when it was out of the frame. Detail photographs show how the feathers are couched down on the front of the sampler with thread rather than sewn through the fabric ground. This technique would have been employed by needleworkers when incorporating unusual and interesting materials – such as feathers or metallic embellishments – onto their work.

Featuring the biblical creation text, “And god saw everything that he had made and behold. It was very good,” Alice also included the figures of Adam and Eve under a tree. The side borders are unusually delicate, featuring intertwining vines with additional leaves and flowers, which is more intricate and complicated than most. Typical of English samplers, the composition is neatly symmetrical, with potted plants, trees and flowers in mirror image on either side. The coloration of the beige lettering is original, as seen in the photo of the reverse of the sampler taken prior to mounting.

The sampler was worked in silk and feathers on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in its fine original painted frame.

Corner detail of front showing tiny couched feathers


Corner detail of reverse showing tiny couched feathers


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