The enigma of an old lace

While browsing the Art Institute’s online collection, I noticed something interesting. For each artwork, they often include a list of publications where the artwork has been featured. It got me thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if Google Books had all these publications available digitally?

Take, for example, this curious artwork I stumbled upon: “Fragment of a Sampler” from the year 1669.

This piece is a real head-scratcher. Titled “Fragment of a Sampler,” it makes me wonder about its story. Is it a showcase of different lace patterns available at the time? Who was it meant for? Was it a tool for lace makers, a catalog for buyers, or a practice piece for learners?

And why do we only have a fragment? What happened to the rest of it?

(Also, I’m curious about the choice of the brown background in the photograph. While a neutral gray might be the go-to for a world-famous museum, there’s something about this brown that I quite like.)

Looking in the “Publications History” for this piece, a couple of publications are listed.

Unfortunately, these publications aren’t available online. Considering Google has scanned millions of publications, it’s a pity Google Books doesn’t have these. It would be incredibly convenient if they did.

So, why did this particular lace piece catch my eye? I was doing research for my “Year Every Day” project, looking into what happened in 1669. (I’ll share more about this project soon!)

Each piece of art has its own story, and sometimes, the journey to uncover these stories takes us down unexpected paths. Stay tuned for more art explorations and discoveries.

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6 months ago

That’s a really cool piece. Historically samplers were made by young girls to learn/practice different sewing techniques. I’ve never seen one done in lace though! Maybe it was a girl whose family included lacemakers and she was learning the craft?

Those documents look like reports of when the piece was acquired. Probably just lists of text that were less priority to digitize in the grand scheme of things 😉

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