I’ve been collecting samplers for just over a year and half. The first sampler I purchased at an auction house, I mistakenly identified as German (as it was listed as German at the auction house where I purchased it) and, being a novice collector, I accepted their description as true. Thankfully Amy Mitten wrote me an email and straightened me out -it is in fact a Dutch sampler – known not as a Stickmustertuch but a Merklap.
Since then I’ve purchased two more through online auctions – one really is German and the other is from Wales. I go through phases where I want to buy a sampler, look, but don’t really find something that catches my eye and is within my budget. However, early last spring I was looking at a German auction site and came across a set of three stickmustertücher offered together. Two of them were of no interest to me whatsoever but the third really caught my eye. I put in a last minute bid and I won the lot for only € 25. My husband and I drove into the middle of Berlin to pick up my lot. The gentleman in the auction house took me up three flights of stairs, describing how long the auction house had been in existence, what they specialised in and all manner of information.
As we came closer to the lot I could see one of the less desirable pieces leaning on the shelf and underneath it the one sampler that I really was excited to have won. When I got right up next to it, however, my heart plummeted as I saw that I’d bid on an art print of a sampler. However, my spirits quickly lifted as I reasoned that it was pretty, it looked “real” from only 3 feet away, would happily grace the walls of my studio and made for a great story!
I brought all three pieces home, gave away the two that I really didn’t want and put on display the art print. Every time I walk into the room and see it, I am taken aback at how realistic it looks! I felt a bit foolish, but live and learn, right?
Then, about a month ago, I was pursuing ISSUU and came across the entire collection of sampler catalogues issued by the firm M. Finkel and Daughter. These are free on ISSUU and contain a wealth of free information and fabulous photographs of samplers for sale. All of them are out of my price range but the catalogues are an excellent resource. I was curious about this firm, in particular Amy Finkel, so I did what every good 21st century scholar does and looked her up on the internet.
Imagine my delight when I found this article about how she had also been fooled into thinking an art print of a sampler was the real thing. In fact, not only was she fooled, the experts at Sotheby’s were fooled!
To quote from her article ” I made arrangements to view the sampler prior to the public opening of the auction preview, precisely to examine it closely and to get my ducks in a row for the sale. I took a train to New York a few days after the New Year holiday and then a taxi to Sotheby’s. My unhappy assessment and disappointment upon seeing it in person was immediate – it was a framed page of the poster art book! Much smaller than the actual sampler, it measured 9 inches square (the catalogue included this measurement in their description but I assumed that this was a typo). The fact that it was a print not a sampler had somehow escaped the Sotheby staff. I broke the news to them and they saw the problem immediately; they removed the “sampler” from the upcoming sale. In fact, before my train returned to Philadelphia, Sotheby’s pulled this lot from their online version of the auction’s catalogue.”
Now my art print sampler has an even better story and I love it even more! Sometimes life does give you lemons and then makes lemonade for you!