Needlework Sampler (Dechado)

Needlework Sampler (Dechado)

1802
Artist
Casimira Sánchez y Castro
Locale
Madrid, Spain
Country
Spain
sampler
Silk embroidery on linen foundation
Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Grimes for the Julia Wolf Glasser Collection
1965.404
Casimira Sánchez y Castro. Needlework Sampler (Dechado). 1802. Silk embroidery on linen foundation. Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Grimes for the Julia Wolf Glasser Collection. 1965.404.
Dimensions
height: 25.25 in, 64.1350 cm; width: 25.25 in, 64.1350 cm
Inscription
Around interior border: "LOHIZO DOÑA CASIMIRA SANCHEZ Y / CASTRO DISCIPULA DE DOÑA MICAELA CASTE / LLANOS Y MESA AÑO DE 1802 VIVA JESUS / MARIA Y JOSEF. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10.11.12.13.14." English translation: Doña Casimira Sánchez y Castro made it, disciple of Doña Micaela Castellanos y Mesa, in the year 1802. Long live Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Department
Textile Art and Fashion
Collection
Textile Art and Fashion-European

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. 

Embroidered in silk thread on linen fabric, the square format of this sampler is typical of those made in Spain in the 1700s and early 1800s. Densely worked bands of patterns are organized around a central panel in which various decorative, religious, and political motifs are stitched. These include a crowned, double-headed eagle and the sacred heart of Jesus, which demonstrate the sampler’s Spanish and Catholic provenance. An inscription wraps around interior field that in English reads: “Doña Casimira Sánchez y Castro made it, disciple of Doña Micaela Castellanos y Mesa, in the year 1802. Long live Jesus, Mary and Joseph” ("LO HIZO DOÑA CASIMIRA SANCHEZ Y CASTRO DISCIPULA DE DOÑA MICAELA CASTELLANOS Y MESA AÑO DE 1802 VIVA JESUS MARIA Y JOSEF”). Because of a notice published in a newspaper in Madrid, Spain, in 1802, the same year this sampler was made, we know that Micaela Castellanos y Mesa ran a school for girls out of her home in Madrid, where under the approval of the Royal and Supreme Council of Castile she taught half- and full-time students. It is likely that Casimira Sánchez y Castro, the maker of this sampler, attended this school where she not only received instruction in sewing, embroidery, but in reading, writing, and calculations. 

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

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