"The Tree of Knowledge"

Object Number: 
Linen, silk
Overall: 16 1/2 x 22 1/4 in. ( 41.9 x 56.5 cm )
embroidered: top center, brown floss: "Christina Arcularius / Her Work New York March. 1. 1792" embroidered: bottom center, green floss: "the Tree of Knowledge"
Horizontal rectangular linen sampler with various colors of silk floss of pink, green and brown; biblical motifs include tree of knowledge flanked by Adam and Eve at bottom center, Jacob's ladder at lower right; and the spies of Canaan bearing grapes at center right; three rows of divided figures and naturalistic imagery, straight border surrounds all sides with strawberry border at top; cross and eyelet stitches; ground originally completely worked.
Gallery Label: 
In addition to teaching the alphabet and fostering sewing skills, samplers also frequently familiarized girls with Biblical stories. One of the few identifiable groups of New York samplers are those worked with Biblical themes, frequently incorporating Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge. Scholars now believe that these samplers, which first appeared in the 1740s and endured into the nineteenth century, originated in one of the elite French boarding schools for girls in New Rochelle, New York. In one of the most intricate examples of this style, 15-year-old Christina Arcularius's sampler portrays Adam and Eve on either side of the Tree of Knowledge, Jacob's ladder ascending into heaven, and Christ feeding the multitudes loaves and fishes, against a solidly stitched background. These motifs may have been copied from Dutch tiles, a common decorative feature in New York homes also used to teach Bible stories to children. This piece may have served as her final "graduation" work, undertaken only after she completed a simple alphabet sampler. This piece was worked by Christina Arcularius (1777-1860), daughter of tanner Philip J. Arcularius (1747-1825), at an unidentified girls' school in New York City. Christina married prominent grocer Samuel Barker Harper (1777-1860) and lived to the age of 83.
Credit Line: 
Bequest of Mrs. Lathrop C. Harper
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group