Friday, September 7, 2012

Early Applique Pattern: Princess Feathers

Appliqued medallion inscribed in cross stitch "Mary Somerville May 26, 1818". Mary also recorded her age: 17 years old. Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Gift of Dorothy Jewell Sanders.

Early quilts in conventional applique often combined designs cut by the maker with florals and other images cut from chintz as in Mary Somerville's quilt. Her central design is what we would call a Princess Feather (or Prince's Feather---we have no idea what Mary called it)

The design is actually cut from a chintz but Mary ignored the print in cutting the whirling pinwheel and simple flowers.

In the borders she focused on the florals from the chintz, doing what we call Broderie Perse until she ran out of one design and then took up another. The final border is conventional applique, again a feathery frond. Mary's foresight in dating her quilt is evidence this rather complicated pattern was in use in the teens.

A fact that helps us date other early examples of the pattern as in this picture from the Pioneer Museum in Troy, Alabama. We don't see any furnishing scale chintz in this quilt. It seems to be smaller scale prints in indigo and madder.

Jerry Peak, the Museum's Director described this quilt in an interview.
“The oldest quilt that we have in the exhibit is a ‘feather’ quilt that belongs to the museum and dates back to 1775. It belonged to the Passmore family of the Monticello community and was made by Mrs. Sam Passmore’s grandmother in South Carolina and brought to Pike County around 1820."

Dating a quilt from a tiny photo is folly---but the family story could be accurate. There is no fabric evident later than 1800. The fan quilting looks very "Southern, late 19th-early 20th century," but it could have been quilted later.

Here's another indigo version by Elizabeth Alexander, now in the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, estimated date ca. 1830.

See more of their quilt collection here

Another blue feather in a field of stars, this one from the Kentucky Quilt Project. See the Quilt Index file here:

Here's an indigo feather thought to be made between 1820 and 1840 by Mary Hicks Stovall, born in Virginia in 1751, died south of Jackson, Mississippi in 1845. It's on display at the  Old Mississippi State Capitol and Museum behind the silver.  It has the same fan quilting as the Alabama quilt---it's probably after 1830 and not really an early quilt. After 1840 we find hundreds of similar quilts.
See the pictures here:

A medallion thought to be about 1820 from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. The fabrics look to be a madder orange with a chintz border.

A similar quilt that Woman's Day showed fifty years ago  
at the Washington family house Kenmore.

They also showed this one that became known as Washington's Plume from the collection of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

The design sources aren't hard to find. Feathers are so abundant in fancy quilting.

Here's a wholecloth quilt from the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art dated 1796.

And an embroidered bedcover from my files---the source or date quite mysterious to me, but you get my point.
For more about Princess Feathers see Karen Alexander's post here.


WoolenSails said...

I am still waiting for the simple, lol.
I can only imagine what it was like for young girls who worked on pieces like this, but they didn't have distractions like we do;)


Suzanne said...

Wow, this post is a knockout! I'll be looking at it again and again. Thanks!