Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bird Prints: Antiques

Pheasants, grouse and other gamebirds were the rage in chintz in the early 19th century as in this multicolored print, probably done in a combination of roller printing with wood block additions of the brown background and the blues. There once might have been a yellow printed over some of the blues to make green leaves.

The birds's long tails are often echoed in palm fronds in the trees. Accuracy in depicting birds, trees and ecosystems was not a priority. English pheasants in tropical forests were common. This print looks to have a block-printed ground in a plum or chocolate color with the usual roller printed detail in madder reds.

Blue added---again there might have once been a yellow now faded away.

Jeremy Adamson in the Calico and Chintz catalog attributes the print above to "ca 1825-35," but for the style as a whole we use a broader date of 1810-1835.


Textile snobs (at the time and later) dismissed many of the bird chintzes with words like "dumped," "flooded" and "inferior." The mills rushing to produce the popular designs cobbled together some imagery, flooded the market and dumped the yardage on their overseas trading partners, who were undboutedly thrilled to get them. One cannot deny the gracelessness in some of prints.

A strip quilt that shows the short repeat on these English prints, indicating they are roller prints rather than the larger repeats one would see in plate prints. Note the repeat from the end of the bird's tail to the end of the next bird's tail.

See another bird print from 1816 in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum here:


Enjoy this tree of life chintz quilt growing in a forest of tiny palm trees in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by clicking here:

Similar trees in a quilt dated 1833 in the collection of the Charleston Museum of Art:
Check out their online exhibit of "Botanical Quilts" here:

Tails went to dramatic lengths
See this quilt (#2007.034.0001) in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum by clicking here:
http://cdn.firespring.com/images/343f4330-187d-47fa-acb5-1d5b96a82761.jpg

And see a similar English quilt in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum by clicking here
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O165071/bed-cover/

There has been some discussion that English quilters did not use these prints but several English quilts survive with yardage and patches.
including this rather palm-like tree in the Austen family quilt.
And this antique in the collection of a very lucky blogger here:


Here's a later print: Exotic birds remain popular in chintzes and toiles for decorating.

5 comments:

Hilda said...

Beautiful aren't they?! Thanks for the information and inspiration

quiltergirl said...

Was polka-dotted fabric being printed during the Regency era? If so, was it a single color or dot on a light ground, or vice-versa? And, were the dots typically round, or maybe elliptical? What size?

Barbara Brackman said...

Re polka dots--they are so easy to print they were definitely among the early prints. Any size, dark on light, light on dark. Elliptical, round, double dots, hollow dots, etc.

Barbara Brackman said...

Look at the sashing in the Jane Austen quilt

quiltergirl said...

Perfect timing, Barbara! I'm cutting the polka dot fabric today! Thanks for the quick response. Of the quilts I viewed online, I couldn't tell for sure that I was sometimes seeing dots. (I love dots) Unfortunately, I did not think to take another peek at the Jane Austen quilt!!
Seems like too often it is not possible to increase the size of the online image enough to be able to see positively what is printed on the fabrics. Then there is the image resolution (# of pixels) which can also be a problem.