skip to content

Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 17:00
Sundays & Bank Holidays: 12:00 - 17:00

FREE ADMISSION

Sampler

One day in 1766, Ann Smith took up some woollen cloth, her needle and coloured silks and started to embroider this pictorial sampler, using five different stitches. Within a stylized floral border enlivened by mirror-image parrots and rampant lions, she stitched more flowers and animals, two moralizing religious verses loosely based on Psalm 119 and Romans 5:19, and The Temptation of Adam and Eve within five wide horizontal bands. Having recorded the year in which she started the sampler, Ann also recorded the date she completed it, making it unusually autobiographical. Possibly from Scotland or the borders, we know nothing of Ann apart from the fact that she completed a second sampler some five and a half years later. She may have been from an affluent family and made her samplers for display and as proof of her good upbringing, needlework skills and domesticity. Alternatively, she may have attended a charity school, and made them as fundraisers and as proof of her employability as a maid. Whatever their original purpose, Ann’s samplers, like so many others, ended up being collected from the nineteenth century onwards, more often than not by women, who clearly felt a particular affinity with these affordable domestic ‘female’ works of art.