Skip navigation
Biblical sampler

Object Name: Sampler
Date: 1783
Related People:
Medium: Linen, silk
Dimensions: Overall (mounted): 17 in. × 20 1/4 in. × 1 in. (43.2 × 51.4 × 2.5 cm)
Description: Rectangular sampler worked in silk thread on linen ground; four horizontal tiers of Biblical imagery, including Jacob's Ladder, Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge, and Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos receiving the Book of Revelations; secular motifs including flowering urns, a peacock, a family with dog, and a single building.
Credit Line: Purchase, made possible through the generosity of Donna and Marvin Schwartz
Object Number: 2014.5
Send to a Friend

Gallery Label:

Eleven-year-old Sarah Ann Janeway (1771–1841) completed this embroidered work in New York City in May 1783. The sampler belongs to an identifiable type made from the 1740s to the 1830s, mostly worked by wealthy New York City girls of Dutch descent and composed of biblical motifs including Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:1-6), Jacob's Ladder (Genesis 28:10-16), and Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos receiving the Book of Revelations. Secular motifs in Sarah’s sampler include flower-filled urns, a peacock, a small family with a dog, and a single building, possibly representing a house or school.

Sarah was the eldest daughter of George Janeway (1747–1826) and Auftje “Effie” Ten Eyck (1744–1804). Her father’s involvement as a member of the Committee of Sixty in 1775 and the subsequent Committee of One Hundred, and his service as a captain in the New York’s Revolutionary War militia, led to the front door of their home being painted with a red “R,” for “Rebel,” shortly after the British occupation of New York City in September 1776. This unmistakable signal prompted the Janeways to move to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where they lived at Buccleuch Mansion. British lines soon encompassed New Brunswick, and at some point during their occupation from December 1776 through June 1777, a British cavalry regiment took over the mansion. The family’s whereabouts are unrecorded until the completion of the sampler in May 1783, which places them back in New York. Sarah completed the sampler at a tense moment in the city’s history: the British had already surrendered, but the Treaty of Paris was still under negotiation and the British had not yet evacuated the city. On Evacuation Day that November, George Janeway signed a letter congratulating George Washington from the “Citizens of New York, who have returned from exile, in behalf of themselves and their suffering brethren.” Janeway rose to prominence and fortune as a brewer, alderman, and real estate speculator and rentier following war.

Sarah and her husband Peter Van Zandt (1764–1845), whom she married in 1791, are depicted in a pair of portraits also at N-YHS (1945.87, 1945.88).