Needlework Sampler (Dechado)

Needlework Sampler (Dechado)

1833
Artist
María Antonia Pío Zamora
Country
Mexico
sampler
Silk and linen embroidery on linen foundation
Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Grimes for the Julia Wolf Glasser Collection
1965.194
María Antonia Pío Zamora. Needlework Sampler (Dechado). 1833. Silk and linen embroidery on linen foundation. Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Grimes for the Julia Wolf Glasser Collection. 1965.194.
Dimensions
length: 14 in, 35.5600 cm; width: 14 in, 35.5600 cm
Inscription
Along middle: "LO LABRO DOÑA MARIA ANTONIA PIO ZAMORA EL AÑO DE 1833 & ABCDEFG" English translation: Doña Maria Antonia Pio Zamora worked it in the year 1833
Department
Textile Art and Fashion
Collection
Textile Art and Fashion-Ancient and Latin American Art

Instruction in sewing, embroidery, and other needlework was considered an essential element of a young woman’s education in Spain and the Spanish Americas during the early modern period until at least the late 1800s. Over the course of her education, especially when undertaken in a school outside the home, a girl would typically produce at least one advanced needlework exercise called a sampler (dechado in Spanish), a panel of embroidered cloth made to show off the student’s training and skill. Like the more well-known works from Great Britain and the United States, samplers made by schoolgirls across the Spanish-speaking world often include a wide variety of stitches and other needlework techniques, alphabets, numbers, verses, as well as religious and decorative motifs sometimes drawn from printed pattern books. Girls frequently signed and dated their samplers, and occasionally included the name of the school or instructor who supervised the project.

Although proficiency in needlework was considered a practical skill, it also came to be equated with female virtue and popular conduct manuals such as Juan Luis Vives’ Education of a Christian Woman (first published in Latin in 1523) and other moralizing texts promoted textile work as a particularly appropriate type of feminine labor. In addition, the stitching of a sampler demonstrated more than needlework skills as the embroidered text and imagery often drew upon multiple aspects of a young woman’s education, including reading and writing, math, drawing and composition, religion, politics, and geography. The display and preservation of samplers by families further points to their role as a symbol of a young woman’s accomplishment, virtue, and social status. A sampler is oftentimes the only surviving record of a woman’s life. As objects of artistic and material culture, samplers not only chart the history of needlework, but give evidence of the limitations and opportunities in female education and literacy, and help to illuminate the lives of individual women, their families, and the specific cultural, religious, and political contexts in which they lived. 

Likely made in Mexico, this sampler includes an inscription that tells us it was made by Doña María Antonia Pío Zamora in the year 1833 ("LO LABRO DOÑA MARIA ANTONIA PIO ZAMORA EL AÑO DE 1833”). The inclusion of “Doña,” an honorific title used in Spanish-speaking countries, suggests the young woman who worked this sampler was of elite or noble descent.

--Sabena Kull, 2017-18 Mayer Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art

Known Provenance
Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.

Some images in our online collection are at thumbnail size, in accordance with AAMD guidelines, because they are protected by copyright. The Denver Art Museum respects the rights of artists or their representatives who retain the copyright to their work. Other images represent the best photography available and should be used as reference images only. Please complete the Image Rights Request form if you want to request a high resolution image.