I was filled with mixed emotions Sunday afternoon as I watched the auction on-line of Betty Ring's wonderful needlework collection. I was sad that her collection was being sold and that the pieces which Betty had so carefully and lovingly collected were being separated. On the other hand, it was good news that so many people recognized the value of the work of so many young schoolgirls.
You may have already heard that the items sold for a total of $4,389,503. About 54 items were not sold because they didn't reach their reserve bids. Most of these items were memorials and other silk needlework pictures.
There were several works made by sisters or multiple pieces done by the same girl. Sometimes the pieces were grouped together in one lot, and other times they were separated into two or more lots. I hated seeing this because once items are separated it is very difficult for them to be brought back together.
Thankfully, Martha Parry's three samplers, stitched at Westtown School, were kept together and sold in one lot. Beulah Passmore, who also attended Westtown School, was not as lucky. She had a pair of samplers (lot 635 and lot 636) in the auction, and they were sold in two separate lots. I sure hope the same person bought them so Beulah's samplers can stay together. According to the catalog, there was also a white darning sampler stitched by Beulah's sister Rebecca which was sold with Beulah's darning sampler. I couldn't find a photo of Rebecca's sampler in the on-line or printed auction catalog.
I had a hard time understanding why some of the pieces sold and others didn't. For example, Nabby Lord's 1765 sampler, estimated to sell for $15,000-$25,000, sold for $37,500. Yet her sister Elisabeth's 1764 sampler, estimated to sell for $12,000-$18,000, didn't reach its minimum and was unsold. I must be missing something because the samplers look so similar. Regardless, I was sad to see these two samplers separated.
The needlework piece which brought the highest price was a sampler stitched by Mary Antrim of New Jersey in 1807. The item sold for $1,070,500. This set a new record price for a sampler. The pre-auction estimate was $80,000-$120,000, so the final price must have been a big surprise to everyone. Perhaps you might enjoy reading this article about the auction in yesterday's New York Times.
Four other items fetched more than $100,000:
Betsy Gail's sampler, ca 1790, Marblehead, Massachusetts--$170,500
Sarah Cooper's sampler, 1792, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--$170,500
Hannah Carlile's sampler, 1796, Providence, Rhode Island--$122,500
Matilda Filbert's sampler, 1830, Wolmesdorf, Pennsylvania--$122,500
WOW is all I can say!!
Did any of you watch the auction too? I had only meant to watch part, but I got totally mesmerized, especially when the bidding on some of the items soared so high. Even Tom ended up sitting down and watching the bidding. I now wonder where the items will end up—in private collections, in museums, or with dealers? I'm still kicking myself for not going to New York to see the pre-auction exhibition at Sotheby's. I can't imagine that there will ever be another exhibit anywhere that can compare to the magnificence of this one.
Over the past few days I've been reading in the back of the catalog the tributes written honoring Betty. I now have an even deeper admiration and respect for Betty and all the work she has done in the field of needlework. What a remarkable woman!! Thank you, Betty, for all that you have done!