Sarah Lawrence American

Not on view

Sarah Lawrence’s pictorial sampler displays multiple images of stories from the Bible and is one of a group of samplers unique to New York City. There are about thirty known New York biblical samplers which range in date from 1746 to 1833. Made under the instruction of several different teachers, they vary in the selection of biblical stories, though certain stories appear repeatedly. The girls who made them and for which genealogical information exists, were all members of Reformed Protestant churches, such as the Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, or French Protestant church. The stories that were stitched on their samplers are significant to one of the core beliefs of these reformed churches, which espoused that there should be an unmediated relationship between God and man. Sarah’s selection of stories includes from left to right on the top row: the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-8); Adam and Eve standing at either side of the tree of knowledge, with the snake curled around the tree trunk (Genesis 3:1-6); and Eve being created from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:22-24). On the bottom row there is Moses receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12); Noah’s burning a sacrifice under a rainbow upon reaching land (Genesis 8:20-22); and Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-16). The stories on the bottom row all illustrate direct covenants that God made with men. Many of the stories also speak of land promised by God to the biblical Israelites; a common theme in writings and sermons by ministers in the New World was that the Protestants who escaped religious persecution in Europe were the "New Israelites" who had arrived in the "New Jerusalem."

The needlework teachers for the New York biblical samplers remain unidentified, and the name of a school does not appear in any of the samplers. The girls who produced the samplers were primarily daughters of the New York’s merchant elite. The design source sampler’s images would have been copied from sources provided by the teachers. Among these images are woodcuts found originally in illustrated sixteenth century Bibles that were copied over and over or from small, illustrated Bibles that were used to teach women and children the biblical stories in simplified form, often in short verses.

To date, Sarah Lawrence’s identity remains unknown. There are several Sarah Lawrences in the New York City area in the mid-1750s. And while Sarah signed and dated her sampler, "[Sa]rah Lawrence aged 10 Feb 11 AE/[illegible] 176[8]," it is hard to discern the last number of the date, making it difficult to calculate her birth year. The Lawrence family were early English merchants in New York, and so it is hoped that future research will uncover Sarah’s identity.

Sampler, Sarah Lawrence, Silk embroidery on linen, American

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