1812 Watercolor & Gouache Sampler

Value (2008) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

My father gave it to me. It's a watercolor- and-ink sampler, I was told, by my great-great-great-grandmother, Hester Ann Mildeberger. She did this when she was about eight.


Eight. And she finished it in 1812.

And how long did it take her, do you know?

I have no idea. I do not know anything about it, except that it was very much valued by my father and by former members of the family.

Right now I'm sort of flabbergasted that an eight-year-old would have the focus and the determination to make something like this and the months it would have taken. There's no room for mistakes on this. If you screw up a letter, you're going to have to start all over again. And the fact that each letter is perfect... I couldn't write like this at eight. I couldn't write like this at 18 and I still can't write like this. (laughing) And I am just in awe of someone who's able to do this. It is something that's like a sampler, but it's like a two-dimensional sampler. And like a sampler, it's also proving skills that a young girl has developed to become a suitable bride and wife. This is someone who shows that she's got all the genteel skills of good penmanship. She also has the skill of amateur watercoloring and drawing, which is a skill that would have been valued by a certain level of society during that time period. The other interesting thing when you look at the picture, it looks like a really innocent picture of a boy with a little bird on his finger resting by a tree with a house in the background. And it's very much in the style of an English painter at the time period called George Moreland who worked and did a lot of children, outdoor scenes and this would have been a typical sort of genre painting that would have been popular. She might have copied it from a print or based it on a print at the time that she might have seen. The other interesting thing is, the painting seems so innocent and lovely and the poem is about stealing birds.


That's why it's called "The Little Plunderer." And they're talking about how the father bird is circling, looking for his children madly. The mother is wondering. And I find that so interesting; the dichotomy between a very innocent picture, the words that tell a very different story. And then you've got the fact that this was done to show a woman's genteel skills. It's a very interesting sort of puzzle. Have you ever thought about value?

I had someone look at it once whose specialty was pen and watercolors.


And she didn't particularly respond to it, and she said maybe $500, $750.

We all think quite highly of it and would put considerably more money, and I would think probably at auction, you would see, conservatively, it might be $3,000 to $5,000.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Dallas, TX (June 28, 2008)

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