Collecting American samplers in Southern California

Sampler

By Eunice Hooper (1781-1866)

Marblehead, Massachusetts, c. 1790. Silk on linen, 21 by 21 ¼ inches. Collection of Karin and Jonathan Fielding.

As she proudly stitched at the top, Eunice Hooper worked this lively composition when she was just nine years old. It belongs to a small group of pictorial samplers produced about 1790 to 1791 by young women living or studying in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Needlework scholar Betty Ring praised Marblehead sam­plers as "incomparable," adding that they had "no foreign counterparts and represent American girlhood embroidery at its best."3 In the group (several of which have richly embroidered black backgrounds, as here), vivid moments from everyday life-such as the woman reading viewed through a window and the one standing on the porch next to a handsomely dressed gentleman-and images of the late summer harvest are combined with idealized, classical imagery. The scenes take place beneath a sky teeming with birds and butterflies and in a landscape filled with lush blossoms and plants.4

The daughter of Captain Samuel Hooper and Elizabeth Trevett, Eunice married John Hooper (1776-1854), a "man of great business energy and shrewdness, combined with much regard for equity and public spirit."5 They had nine children. Hooper's elegant silk and satin wedding dress in the then-fashionable Empire style is today in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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