Friday, November 18, 2011

An American Folk Art Masterwork: Hand-Stitched Celestial Map (1863) at Christie's

by Stephen J. Gertz

On May 23, 1863, Hattie E. Rogers of Oneida County, New York, sewed her name  to a just completed project.

That project was a recreation in needlework of Elijah J. Burritt's, A Celestial Planisphere, Or Map of the Heavens (New York: 1835).

A very large hand-stitched celestial map (1435 x 2390mm), its stars are composed of white cloth, some labeled in contemporary ink manuscript, and depicted to five orders of magnitude, sewn onto a Cambridge blue background composed of seventeen panels of cloth, the crease folds corresponding with the correct latitude and longitude astral co-ordinates. The verso of the top edge is lined with linen and has five small hanging loops. Two small paper labels are stitched to the left- and right-hand sides.

Hattie E. Rogers was the sister of Henry C. Rogers, author of History of the Town of Paris, and the Valley of the Sauquoit (Utica, 1881). He mentions her several times in book, where she is described as having served as a music teacher in the school at Paris, NY in 1878.

What is extraordinary about this piece is that is provides evidence that not all American women of the era were needlepointing samplers. Hattie E. Rogers was an educated woman interested in science and astronomy.

Part of Christie's - London South Kensington Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, including a selection from the Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. Churchill Collection and Photobooks from the Calle Collection, November 28, 2011 sale 3013, this American folk art celestial map is estimated to sell for £2,000 - £3,000 ($3,206 - $4,809).

Image courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

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