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Willard, Madeline S.
Sampler
around 1841

Samplers, containing an embroidered alphabet, number sequence, and/or verse, formed part of a girls practical and moral instruction either within a home or at school. In embroidering silk thread onto linen or wool, she could improve her sewing skills, letters, numbers and godliness, all at once. Fine needlework was not only a necessary domestic art but also a valued attribute of femininity; samplers thus aligned with other acceptable feminine art practices such as music and watercolour painting, and like these were intended for display.

Yet within these set structures, there is incredible range of craftsmanship and creativity in the choice, placement and modification of pattern elements, as well as deviations and personal additions. The sampler is a fascinating balance of humility and modesty on the one hand, and pride in ones ability and originality on the other. Intended to endure as a record, samplers almost always include the makers name and age, and often where she lived.

The daughter of a hardware merchant, Madeleine Willard likely stitched her sampler around 1840-1841, just as her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, was poised to become the capital of the Province of Canada.

 
Willard, Madeline S.
Sampler
around 1841
silk; wool; linen
63.4 x 43.2 cm
Purchase, Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, 2015
57-021.01

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