Betsy Davis 1797
Origin and date: Mary Balch School, Providence, Rhode Island, 1797
Linen count and finished size: 25 count, 13″x15″
Stitches: Cross, half cross, satin, queen, stem
Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
From the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston this Providence, Rhode Island, sampler is a superb example of the work done at Miss Mary (Polly) Balch’s school. Combining sophisticated architectural, landscape and figural motifs with elaborate and unusual stitch combinations, including filled-in, tapestry-like backgrounds, this body of samplers is perhaps the finest and most well known in the American tradition. Although the school is never named, recurring themes in verse and design make these samplers fairly easy to recognize. A plaque at the center of this sampler is surrounded on three sides by the distinctive Balch School rococo stitch flowers springing from urns on either side. The verse – one frequently appearing on these samplers – is announced by trumpeting angels. A three-storied house and numerous figures and animals complete the three-tiered scenes.