Rachel and Jacob


unknown artist, Rachel and Jacob, 1772, silk needlework on linen, private collection, Philadelphia. 

This needlework picture sampler embroidered by an unknown artist portrays the story of Rachel and Jacob. The background is filled with animals, symbolism, and characteristics of other Biblical stories that were embroidered in the Philadelphia area of the British colonies. The smaller figure to the right of Jacob’s boot is most likely depicting Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Inscribed at the bottom: 1772 Jacob Journey to Laban and Meets with Rachel Genefis 29.

Despite major changes in the early years of the United States, needlework was a consistent reflection of a woman’s social and educational training. Girls learned the art in school. As they grew older, it was considered a luxury to have the time to spend hours executing needlework.