Mary Napper

Harlequin & Columbine,
England, 1814

sampler size: 16½” x 12½” framed size: 20¼" x 16¼" • 2nd Saturday Sampler Special - now 40% discount - $2040! Call or text 215-292-3568 with questions or to purchase. • price: sold

We know of only a very few samplers that include depictions of Harlequin and Columbine. The origin of this couple is with the Commedia del Arte, Italian dramatic performance art of the mid 16th century which featured irreverent street theater. The companies portrayed exuberant characters whose popularity remained intact for centuries and the stories were performed as English pantomimes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Harlequin, a trickster and acrobat, was famous for his parti-colored costume, fanciful hats, and his romantic counterpart was Columbine, a servant in the same household.

Mary Napper’s sampler is a classic and excellent English sampler, with a layered and balanced composition, a very good variety of colors and carefully executed needlework. Her inscription reads, “Mary Napper Is my Name / And With my Needle I Work The Same / That all The World may Plainly See / What Care my Parents Took Of me,” and she stated that she finished it on May 3, 1814. Mary paid particular attention to her portrayal of Harlequin and Columbine, imbuing their faces with strong expression and their colorful costume with good detail; even the splayed fingers of their hands increase their dramatic stance.

Other decorative elements include the large pair of butterflies, many pots of flowers, pairs of parrots and other birds and two whimsical dogs.

Worked in silk on wool, the sampler is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in its fine, original maple frame with a gilt liner.


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