Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1805
This outstanding sampler features a stunning and highly unusual pictorial scene and an excellent three-sided border, all rendered in the long, crinkled silk stitches that represent the finest needlework accomplished in the Boston area. Four varied-colored cottages under a sky with puffy clouds sit on a lake filled with sail boats and row boats on choppy blue and white water. Several men are fishing and one, on land, tends to his horse. The composition, color blocking and use of straight and angled lines lend a somewhat abstract quality to the scene, one that is rarely found on samplers. And while needleworkers in Boston and the area included depictions of ladies or gentlemen fishing throughout the 18th century, the fishermen on this example are dressed and postured as more simple folk, consistent with the simplicity of the architecture portrayed. Details such as the mullions of some of the windows, the top hats of the fisherman, the pennants flying from the boat masts, the foliage in the forefront and the specific and detailed flowers and grape bunches in the border contribute to the appeal of this sampler.
The samplermaker, eleven-year-old Hannah Davis, was born December 15, 1792 to Moses Davis (1744-1823) and his wife, Hannah Pierpont Davis. The family lived in Roxbury, which was then a prosperous, small town adjacent to and southwest of Boston. Davis Families of Early Roxbury and Boston by Samuel Forbes Rockwell (The Andover Press, 1932) documents the family history, which began with William Davis who came to New England in 1635 and settled in Roxbury by 1640. Hannah’s father, Moses, was a Minuteman at the Lexington Alarm in 1775. His father, Aaron Davis, served as a delegate to three Provincial Congresses and was a colonel in the Massachusetts Militia.
In 1814, Hannah married David Dudley (1787-1841), a prominent banker in Boston and descendant of Thomas Dudley (1576-1653), governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and singer of the charter stabling Harvard College in 1650. A fine pair of portraits of the handsome couple, David and Hannah Dudley, was painted by Chester Harding, circa 1836, and are in the Harvard University Portrait Collection, following a family bequest in 1988. American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One, by Theodore E. Stebbins and Melissa Renn (Yale University Press, 2014) published these portraits as figure 195 and 196. Hannah and David Dudley had ten children and they remained in Roxbury. Hannah, a widow at age 49, later resided in Boston with a daughter and died in 1886.
The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a mahogany frame.