Elizabeth Nield, Multiplication Table,

Elizabeth Nield, Multiplication Table,

England, 1816

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sampler size: 10½” square • framed size: 14” square • sold

Needlework was indeed at the forefront of the education of young girls throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. In many schools, however, they would have certainly been exposed to a well-rounded academic experience, too. Studies including mathematics, geography, history lessons, astronomy and, of course, literature have all been reflected in needlework; as with the good development of any worthy skill or knowledge, practice makes perfect. Elizabeth Nield practiced her needlework skill and her knowledge of arithmetic while stitching a multiplication table as the subject of a sampler.

Multiplication Table samplers are very rare, and all that we know were made in the British Isles. They have a striking graphic quality, of course, as the twelve-by-twelve grid of numbers is stitched in black thread, as if printed on a page. Of interest, in Micheál & Elizabeth Feller, The Needlework Collection: 2 (Needleprint, 2012), on p. 210, Mrs. Feller notes that “In old imperial money and measurements there were twelve pennies in one shilling and twelve inches to the foot, so the twelve times table was essential.” Alongside this text is an unfinished example of a Multiplication Table sampler made in England by Jemima Gowan, dated 1828.

Miss Nield’s sampler is completed with two tightly worked, narrow borders framing it. An inner border of a vine of soft pink flower buds, the same pink used for her lettering, and an outer modified Greek key border in blue. The addition of this decorative needlework provides an extra element of charm and aesthetic appeal.

Worked in silk on linen it remains in excellent condition with some slight loss to the outer border and a very few of the letters. It has been conservation mounted into beveled maple frame with a cherry outer bead.

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