Anna Maria Blenis, Greenville,

Anna Maria Blenis, Greenville,

Greene County, New York, 1856 to 1857

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sampler size: 21¼” x 17” • framed size: 23½” x 19¼” • sold

By the middle of the 19th century many needleworkers began to use Bristol Board, a card stock with tiny punched holes, for their samplers and other forms of needlework. We have come across a handful of very finely worked samplers made on Bristol Board in this early period and these indicate an excellent quality of stitching. By the 1880s or so, the scale of the punches holes became larger and much of the needlework became clumsier.

This is a wonderful example of the early work, with tiny stitching used throughout. The luxuriant border was designed in a freeform composition with much attention lavished on the large flowers blossoms and various birds. It is signed across the bottom, “This was made by Anna Maria Blenis in the year 1856 and 1857.” She included the names of those in her household, including her aunt, Deborah Ann Powell.  Many wonderful, Victorian sentiments and weighty words from the period appear throughout the sampler: Honor, Sincerity, Truth, Variety, Love, Think of Me, Sweet Remembrances, Forget Me Not, Melancholy. The flowering vines grow out of two large urns that anchor a lawn filled with depictions of books, a cross, a lyre and a wreath. Notably, a large hummingbird sipping at a heavy blossom hovers nearby.

Anna Maria was born in 1833 and so began her work on this when she was 24 years old, and an obviously accomplished needleworker. Her parents were John and Sarah (Powell) Blenis and her older brother was Ambrose P. Blenis. They lived in Greenville, a town in Greene County, New York State between Poughkeepsie and Albany. Census records indicate that John was a farmer and that Sarah’s sister, Deborah Ann Powell, lived with the family as well. Anna Maria remained single and died at age 41 in 1874; she is buried in Staco Cemetery in Greene County. 

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