Mary Millington,

Mary Millington,

Wells, Norfolk, England, 1787

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sampler size: 13¾” x 11” • framed size: 16¼” x 13¾” • sold

It’s always our pleasure to offer a sampler with as much appeal as this one. The maker signed her work, “Mary Millington Wells September 13th 1787” and research has confirmed that Mary was born circa 1774 to William and Mary (Harris) Millington of Wells, Norfolk, England who were married there in 1769. Norfolk baptism records include that of their daughter, Mary, on February 28, 1774 in Wells-Next-The-Sea.

In the fashion of eighteenth century samplers, the composition is divided into registers, separated by crisp satin-stitched borders. Across the top is a quintessential couplet – “Tis education forms the tender mind / Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined” – by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), which is followed by an animated scene. Lions on striped hills in a tree canopy and dogs on their striped platforms face inward to an urn of flowers. A large pair of butterflies, little hearts and bugs fly above.

The aphorism along the bottom – “Good nature & good sense must ever join / To err is human to forgive divine” – also by Alexander Pope, sits below a scene of more striped blocks, zigzagged lawns with sprouting flowers. More butterflies, dogs and small motifs complete the register.

The large central register features three more blocks of various shades of green with flowers and an extra-large overstuffed basket of fruit, flanked by Mary’s inscription. Whimsically, a delicate pair of elongated perched birds have their beaks inside of flower buds. A neatly worked, deep green vine surrounds the sampler on all four sides, completing her composition.

Imitation and Improvement: The Norfolk Sampler Traditionby Joanne Martin Lukacher (In the Company of Friends, Redmond, WA, 2013), a comprehensive book on the distinctive samplers from Norfolk, depicts examples relating to Mary’s sampler; Eliza Shrimplin’s 1810 sampler (p.256) shares the same spotted butterflies with long antennae. Attention within this book is also paid to the fact that there are a number of notable samplers known to have been worked at Wells School - quite possibly this is the school that Mary attended.

This sampler was worked in silk on linen gauze and it remains in excellent condition, significantly retaining almost all of its original color. An image of the back of the sampler (shown below) and shows minor fade to the slightly deeper red of the top pair of butterflies. It has been conservation mounted in its fine original frame, which has been gold leafed long ago.

Image of the reverse of sampler

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