Isbell Niel, Glasgow, Scotland, 1803

Isbell Niel, Glasgow, Scotland, 1803

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sampler size: 15¼” x 13” • framed size: 18¼” x 16” • sold

This splendid pictorial sampler is inscribed “ISBELL NIEL SEWED THIS IN THE YEAR 1803.” It features a grand institutional building, fully worked with precise detail, displaying mullioned windows, a domed roof, clock in the pediment, and a domed double door with sweeping fences extending from the front steps. Additionally, a path leads to the front doors from a linear lawn with a variety of animals marching inward. A pair of springy trees dotted with birds arch over the building and a blue speckled bird soars upward.

Wonderfully framed in bold, jagged thistle stemming from a blue handled pot are Proverbs 31:31 – “Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her own works praise her in the gates” – and two encircled names. A pair of thistle heads point to Isbell’s father under the pot, John Niel, and along the top a pair of flowers present more of an inscription: “DRAWN BY PETER GOVAN.” This is certainly an unusual addition to a sampler and was likely Isbell’s uncle or another family member.

Isbell, or Isobel as some records indicate, was born in Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland in May of 1787 to John Niel(l) and Isobel Govan. John was the manager of a sugar house in Glasgow. The largest city in Scotland, Glasgow established its presence via the international trade of goods, primarily sugar. Along with manufacturing and invention, and other products such as tobacco, cotton and linen, it expanded rapidly and was a leader in the industrial revolution.

Isbell’s sampler was worked in silk on wool and remains in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted into its fine, original mahogany veneered frame with a gold liner.

(image of the reverse of the sampler)

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