Friday, January 28, 2011

It's a Small World

Here's the second in my series of posts relating to finds I made at this year's Winter Antiques Show in New York City. This one was a sweet little piece, and a rare one too. As I discussed in my post from last March regarding a large watercolor and ink map sampler that I bought for the museum, these particular forms of schoolgirl work are much more difficult to find than the more common Biblical scene or print-derived landscape. That's why this small map sampler in the booth of Stephen and Carol Huber caught my eye.

This piece is only about 10" wide, much smaller than our large piece from last year. The workmanship is quite good for the scale, as you can tell from the detail photos. And it's signed, by an Anna Gill, and dated 1804. This is important because, like to many pieces that I have blogged about in these pages, there is a good story behind this piece that we would not know if it wasn't signed.

According to the dealer offering this sampler, Anna Gill lived in Pleasant Valley, New York and was eleven years old when she did this piece. Her mother, Wilhemina Anthony Gill, had a private nurse from childhood, a slave purchased in 1761 and named Dina. During the American Revolution, when the British troops invaded the Hudson Valley and destroyed numerous homes (including nearly all of Kingston, NY), Dina stayed behind after the family fled into the woods, as she was determined to protect the family home. The story goes that when she encountered the British troops she offered them a meal in return for sparing the house. Surprisingly, they agreed, but burned the mill.

Records indicate that when Dina died in 1823 she was a free person. The Gill family had such respect and gratitude for her that they arranged to have her buried in the family plot in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. Anna, the maker of this sampler, died unmarried in 1844 and is buried in the same plot.

These map samplers were meant to demonstrate a schoolgirl's knowledge of world geography. It just seemed fascinating to me that behind this small demonstration of one's awareness of the world there was a family history that stood squarely at the intersection of Africa, Europe, and North America. Some things can't be taught in school.


  1. Wow, what a story about saving the house. Did you acquire the drawing or anything else at the show?

  2. No, I didn't buy it. The price was high, as everything is at the Winter Show, so I just walked through and admired everything. Honestly, there wasn't anything I felt we had to have this year. That's the way it is sometimes....

  3. What a wonderful story to have attached to such a lovely little sampler. You see so many things that you wish you had the story behind them. Thanks!

  4. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many helpful stuff in your weblog specifically its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles or blog posts, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the excellent work. Respectfully, Aji.

  5. Thank you, Aji, for reading the blog and leaving such a nice comment. I really appreciate it.

  6. I am writing a book about map samplers and I would like to ge more information. Who was the dealer and where is the map now?
    Judith Tyner

  7. I should clarify one of my comments above regarding this piece. The price was high for me to consider a purchase, but the item was not overpriced. It is such a rare and superb piece. I wish I could have bought it.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin