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A long narrow sampler with bands of alphabets and geometric cross borders, the inscription: Martha Butler is my name and with my needle I wrought the same and if my skill it had been batter, I would have mended every letter. An the 19 Day 1729 the 12 of my ageAt the bottom is a scene with Adam and Eve, the Tree of Knowledge and a large snake, assorted animals and flowers including thistle and rose. Adam and Eve carry fig leaves which are attached only at the base of each leaf.

Details

  • Title: Sampler
  • Creator: Martha Butler
  • Date Created: 1729
  • Physical Dimensions: w205 x h460 cm
  • Type: Sampler
  • Rights: Bequest of Rosalie Coe, from the collection inherited from her mother, Eva Johnston Coe
  • Medium: Medium: silk embroidery on linen foundation Technique: embroidered in cross, eye, satin, herringbone, stem, knot, couching and detached looping stitches on plain weave foundation
  • Viewing Notes: Martha Butler’s 1729 sampler belongs to the earliest known group of Boston samplers, worked between 1724 and 1744. The style of the samplers evolved over time, but the majority of them feature Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden, both important symbols of Puritan theology. Martha’s sampler is closely related to what is believed the oldest sampler from the group, worked by Mehetabel Done in 1724 (private collection). The pattern for these early examples seems to have originated from a 1654 English sampler now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Both its pictorial motifs – including Adam and Eve, a serpent entwined around the Tree of Knowledge, birds, frolicking animals, flowers, insects, and the sun – and its needlework techniques – such as the lacy, partly detached embroidery of Adam and Eve’s fig leaves – are strikingly similar to those of the Boston group. A later, related example from the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection, without the alphabets and verse, was made in 1734 by Ann Peartree. The schoolmistress responsible for these patterns is not known, but it is far from surprising that early eighteenth-century colonists would have been influenced by English traditions. Although Martha Butler’s identity is uncertain, she was probably the daughter of Matthew Butler (b. 1864) and Sarah Asten (b. 1688) of Boston. The couple had several children, including a daughter named Martha, who was born on January 20, 1717. She may also have been the Martha Butler who married Peter Jenkins in Boston on September 9, 1742, and had at least two children, Peter (b. 1743) and Thomas (1745–1748).
  • Inscribed: Martha Butler is my name and with my needle I wrought the same and if my skill it had been batter, I would have mended every letter. An the 19 Day 1729 the 12 of my age
  • Exhibitions: New York, NY, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, "Embroidered Samplers", February 21 - May 27, 1984.
  • Dimensions: H x W: 46 x 20.3 cm (18 1/8 x 8 in.)

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