The 'Frisian' letter A

A 'Frisian?" sampler with the initials A.K. (left hand corner), 1860s. TRC Collection (TRC 2017.4287).

A 'Frisian?" sampler with the initials A.K. (left hand corner), 1860s. TRC Collection (TRC 2017.4287).

Chart of an ornate ‘A’, worked on a ‘Frisian?’ sampler (TRC 2017.4287) with the initials A.K.

Chart of an ornate ‘A’, worked on a ‘Frisian?’ sampler (TRC 2017.4287) with the initials A.K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is noted in various popular and academic books and articles about Dutch regional embroidery that the letter A with the bar above the apex of the triangle is a typically Frisian (Fries) form from the north of the Netherlands (Friesland), and that any embroidered item with that type of letter could be classed as Frisian.

 

A selection of different forms of the so-called 'Frisian' A, from various Dutch sources (chart by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood).

A selection of different forms of the so-called 'Frisian' A, from various Dutch sources (chart by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood).

However, the exclusive attribution of the A can be questioned, for the same type of A can be found on items from other, northern and western parts of the country, such as the island of Marken.

In addition, the 'Frisian' A was apparently also used far away from Friesland. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, there is a sampler made by Barbara Landis (1816-1884; see illustration). She was a member of the Mennonite sect, an originally Frisian community, many of whom migrated to Pennsylvania (eastern USA). The letter A in the alphabet line of this sampler is very similar in shape to the so-called Frisian ‘A’. It could be argued that she was following a Fries tradition. But there is more.

An American/German sampler from 1827, worked by Barbara Landis (USA; Gift of Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, 1933, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MMA 34.100.209).

An American/German sampler from 1827, worked by Barbara Landis (USA; Gift of Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, 1933, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MMA 34.100.209).

There is a sampler in the York Castle Museum, England (TDP235), which was made by an English girl called Matilda Abbot in the early nineteenth century. It includes the shape of the letter A that so often is classed as typically Frisian.

There is also a sampler in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (MMA 57.122.275) that comes from Spain and is dated to 1867 (see illustration). Once again it has the 'typical' A.

So perhaps the origins of this letter and its use as automatic ‘proof’ that something comes from The Netherlands, and more specifically from Friesland, should be treated with some caution.

Sampler in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (MMA 57.122.275) that comes from Spain and is dated to 1867.

Sampler in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (MMA 57.122.275) that comes from Spain and is dated to 1867.

Gillian Vogelsang, Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Search in the TRC website

TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428   info@trc-leiden.nl

Open on Mondays - Thursdays from 10.00 - 16.00; closed from 23 Dec. 2019 - 5 Jan. 2020.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

facebook 2015 logo detail

 

 

Donations

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
 
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: 
 
 

Subscribe to the TRC Newsletter