Anne Shuffrey,

Anne Shuffrey,

England, 1837

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sampler size: 17¼" x 19" • framed size: 21" x 22¾" • sold

English schoolgirls occasionally worked highly unusual puzzle samplers and this is an exceptional example. In his book Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities (J.B. Lippencott Co., 1892), William S. Walsh uses this precise composition as an example in the section entitled “Emblematic, Figurate, or Shaped Poems.” Mr. Walsh writes “...the structure of the verse, the metre, and the rhythm indicate that it is not earlier than the last half of the seventeenth century, and may be much more recent.” He then goes on to give a detailed explanation of the work. The large center cross represents our Savior. INRI, meaning Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum, is written at the top of the cross and is found on many samplers. Within this cross is our Savior’s expression. The two smaller crosses represent the thieves; within them are a prayer and a saying of the thieves.

The entire sampler is one long verse which is read across and through the crosses, much like a crossword puzzle of today. The first line, for example, reads “Behold oh God in rivers of my tears,” incorporating words/lettering inside and outside each cross. The messages within each cross also read vertically. We have only known of one other sampler presenting this subject and it is indeed, a curious piece, beautifully executed with great precision.

The border has been backed with another piece of fabric giving it a darker ground for the vibrant flowering vines, which frames the sampler on all four sides. Worked in silk on wool, Anne’s sampler is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and in a beveled figured maple frame.

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