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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

Joanna Maxwell
American, 1782 - 1847
Silk on linen

16 ¾ x 13 ¼ inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection
Museum purchase funded by the Houston Junior Woman’s Club in honor of their forty years of service to Bayou Bend

Arts of North America

Textiles are celebrated as the principal and most vibrant contribution that early American girls and women made to the decorative arts. The style of this sampler emerged from early girls’ academies in Providence and Warren, Rhode Island, established and run during and after the American Revolution by widows to support their children.

Joanna Maxwell stitched this sampler at age 11. She lived her life in the seaport town of Warren, and this example, dated 1793 and bearing the phrase “Wrought in Warren,” is the earliest known of a distinguished group. It depicts a pastoral scene of adults and children among animals and foliage, with lines of an acrostic verse praising truth, wisdom, God, and goodness stitched in the center, the first letter of each verse spelling out Joanna’s name when viewed in a vertical orientation. Her sampler is beautifully executed, and more than two centuries later, the needlework retains much of its original color and brilliancy.