Mary Girven, Northern Ireland, circa 1828

Mary Girven, Northern Ireland, circa 1828

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sampler size: 17¼” x 12½” • framed size: 21” x 16¼” • $3400

A wonderful and highly developed sampler with strong pictorial appeal, this was accompanied by an interesting family note that provided clues to the identity of the maker, Mary Girven; many of the initials stitched by Mary helped to confirm the family history. The sampler features a stunning brick house with a blue slate roof, two brick chimneys, and fine details such as the mullions on the many windows, Belgian pattern to the bricks, doorknocker and doorknob and fan window above the door. Spotted birds soar above the house and smaller birds and a little spotted black dog provide delightful animation. A small dependency house, perhaps a kitchen or icehouse, and two unusual trees finish the scene nicely. Alphabets and a religious verse fill the space above. Within the body of needlework made in the United Kingdom, far fewer samplers were made in Ireland than in England or Scotland, so regional characteristics, as generally exist within the world of antique samplers and are difficult to track for Irish samplers.

Mary was born circa 1815 in Northern Ireland to David and Sarah Girven, and their initials are prominently displayed on the sampler underneath crowns. They were married in 1809 in Clonoe, County Tyrone and had other children including David, James and Hugh; their initials are also on the sampler.

The Girven family may have remained in County Tyrone and Mary, as the family note reveals, married John McQuaid. They had several children including Sarah Ann who is also mentioned in the family note. The couple emigrated along with some of their children sailing from Dublin in 1848 to America, as documented by immigration records. The 1850 United States census shows the family living in Philadelphia – John and Mary McQuaid (the record indicates that both John and Mary were born in Ireland). In 1858, their daughter Sarah married Alexander Wurts Mattison, born 1837, and the sampler seems to have descended in the family through them. The recollected information that was written within the family, likely in the early 20th century, dovetails nicely with much of the research findings.

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a period maple frame.

(image of the reverse)

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