So it says much for the calibre of a 70-year-old private collection offered for sale at Special Auction Services (18% buyer’s premium) in Greenham, near Newbury, on November 10 that four pieces attracted four-figure bids.
The £8500 (estimate £400-500) bid for the 12 x 16in (31 x 39cm) sampler pictured far right was among the highest achieved for an English sampler in 2016.
Embroidered in silks with the popular sampler verse Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy Youth, it included the names Janet Stirling and Elizabeth Barclay and a series of family monograms together with the date 1783.
All were above a splendid pastoral scene depicting two Georgian gents on a lawn in front of a large country house.
The creation of a lawn in chenille (the colours still vibrant after two and a half centuries) is something often associated with samplers from the Newport area in Wales.
Sentiment and storytelling can be as important in sampler collecting as needleworking skill.
The technical virtuosity shown by a child enjoying all the trappings of Georgian privilege provides an immediate contrast to the 10½ x 14in (26 x 33cm) Victorian white cotton alphabet sampler, pictured above left. Embroidered in red cross stitch, it is unexceptional but for the inscription Julia Burgess, New Orphan House No 3, South wing, Ashley Down, Bristol, 1868.
The New Orphan Houses in Ashley Down were commonly known as the Müller Homes, built between 1849 and 1870 by the Prussian evangelist George Müller. The five houses held 2050 orphaned children at any one time.
Institutional samplers such as this – so evocative of the Victorian experience – are highly prized. Estimated at £250-350, it took £3400.