Friday, December 30, 2011

Great Lakes Seaway Trail Quilt Show

A reminder that the 1812 Quilt Challenge sponsored by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail wants your 30" x 70" reproduction quilts done in 1812 style as entries in their event. Click here to see more about their timeline and the official form:

A paper hat from the era 

The deadline for registering your entry is now February 19th.

The quilts are due March 2nd.

Some knicknacks from the time....
Prince William on a pitcher

George Washington's horse

Desk from the Washington Benevolent Society dated 1812

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Broderie Perse Evolves

Chintz applique medallion dated 1837-1838 by Mrs. James Lusby
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Cutting chintz images from one piece of fabric and stitching them to another was a technique that remained popular with Americans through the middle of the 19th century. Mrs. Lusby's quilt above has much in common with the Broderie Perse medallions made about 1810. Dogtooth applique and chintz borders frame a central floral. The major clue to date, had she not inscribed it, might be the Turkey red final border, a very popular fabric choice from about 1840 through the end of the century.

Another quilt from the Smithsonian collection with a basket holding the florals.

Center with a lattice-work basket from an online auction

It is pirmarily the fabrics that help us date these cut-out-chintz medallions as style changed so little.

Again, an emphasis on Turkey red, a fabric rather rare in 1815, dates this quilt to after 1840.

The maker combined the new fashion for conventional applique in the Germanic primary colors with the now old-fashioned cut-out chintz.

Another open-work basket medallion, hard to date from just a photo in an online auction. These baskets and containers seem to have replaced tree-of-life compositions as the century wore on, but you don't want to really use that as a clue to a later date since these quilts are all so similar. If you wanted to put a basket or a cornucopia as a container in an 1812 reproduction quilt you could make a case for it.

The one thing you don't want to do is make a block-style Broderie Perse quilt.

Like this one from the Proudfoot family in the collection of the Smithsonian.

I know it's tempting. Blocks are so portable.
But it would be like wearing a bustle to Dolley Madison's Wednesday night squeeze.

Irish Chain with Broderie Perse
from Laura Fisher's collection

It's an idea whose time hasn't yet arrived.
Blocks and Broderie Perse---about 1840.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Palampores and the Tree of Life

Detail of a Broderie Perse or cut-out chintz quilt from an online auction.

The imagery in early chintz applique quilts has a long history in Europe and Asia.

Indian palampore on the left; applique quilt on the right.

Parallels are quite obvious between the quilts and the hand-painted and block-printed Indian chintz that had been popular bedcoverings with earlier generations of well-to-do Europeans. The idea of a magical tree bearing a multitude of  flowers and fruits is a Biblical reference that inspired embroidery and other arts for centuries. Melinda Watt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art website quotes a mid-17th century poem about an English needlewoman:
'Twixt Art and Nature: Trees of fruits
With leaves, boughs, branches, body, roots,
She made to grow in Winter time,
Ripe to the eye, easy to climb.

Detail of a 17th-century English embroidery
from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tree-of-life imagery is also found in Asian and Indian cultures. Palampores made for the European export market combined the common threads. The word palampore has roots in the word for bedcovering. Most of the Indian spreads we see were designed to please western tastes, a combination of cultural imagery that remained popular with early 19th-century appliqué artists.

Palampore from the Ismail Merchant collection,
Sold at Christies in 2009

Links to more palampores, some quilted, some not:

The photo of this 18th-century palampore from the Winterthur Museum allows you to see the details

From the New Jersey project and the Quilt Index

From the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, #2008.040.0219

The Powerhouse Museum gives you more information on the palampore in general.

The Royal Ontario Museum has posted a video showing conservation of a palampore

If you haven't seen enough go to the search page for the Victoria and Albert Museum and type in the word palampore in the search box.

Detail of Tree of Life painting
Gustav Klimt, about 1909

From the digital Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Watt, Melinda. "English Embroidery of the Late Tudor and Stuart Eras". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Here's a post on the tree of life imagery in general:  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hewson Repros in Shops

Just in time for the Bicentnennial of the War of 1812, Andover's John Hewson collection of reproductions has been shipped. Designer Kathy Hall showed the fabric and this quilt designed by Gail Kessler at spring market with expected summer delivery to shops.

Warehouses + Irene = Disaster

But there was a little problem.... Hurricane Irene flooded the warehouse. All that beautiful fabric--- wet, smelly, muddy and mildewed. They reprinted, which took a few months, and now it's ready.

Gail Kessler used the center, the other motifs and the borders to make this reproduction of the original spread in the collection of the Winterthur Museum that provided the inspiration.

Download a PDF with instructions for Gail's design by clicking here:

And download one with instructions for Jean Ann Wright's here

I'm working on my reproduction of
Zebiah Smallwood Hewson's quilt beginning with the Andover center.

Zebiah's quilt top in the
Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

My interpretation
My central panel is smaller so my finished quilt will be smaller
 (a good thing--- as Zeb's is 118" wide)

I've got the first dogtooth (Vandyke scallop) border done with 3" appliqued indigo stars in the corners.
Now I am thinking about the zig-zag. My center is square, although it doesn't look it here. With the first border it's 27". I think I will add a small white strip to make it finish to 30" so the math for the next border works out better.

Zebiah's version of the second border.

I think I will use this version of the design sketched out in EQ:
3" finished squares from Lately Arrived From London

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reproduction Tree of Life Medallions

Tree of Life
By Bobbi Finley

The tree-of-life is a classic compostion, an ancient tree sprouting flowers and leaves that could never co-exist in nature. Westerners adapted the idea from various Eastern imagery.
Bobbi's whole top on a windy day.

Tree of Life center by Judy Severson
The hillocks (range of hills) at the base are a tradition.

Tree of Life
By Cynthia Collier

Roseanne Smith

Broderie Perse Center
Exotic birds are an important addition.
Judy and Roseanne like butterflies too.

If you are looking for a pattern----
Banyan Tree Medallion by Margaret Mew for Quilt Station

If you are inspired to cut your own see these posts on how to do it:

Judy Severson's work table

Roseanne Smith's new tree in progress

Almost finished

Thursday, December 1, 2011

4: Ann Randolph Morris: Virginia to New York

A collage of Ann Cary Randolph Morris (1774-1837)
and a late 19th-century piece of cut-out-chintz applique

"Mr. Madison's  War" had strong opposition, primarily from members of the Federalist party who blamed Madison's Democratic-Republicans for diplomatic failure. The Federalist party of ex-President John Adams was centered in the north, led by several Founding Fathers who'd invented the Revolution. New York's Gouverneur Morris, a younger member of the older generation, had been a primary author of the Constitution. Gouverneur (it was his mother's family name) had a strong voice in the anti-war movement, calling it a "wicked war of conquest...a moral wrong."

Gouverneur Morris about the time
 he was a minister to the French court before the French Revolution

Sixty years old in 1812, he'd  inherited the 2,000 acre family fiefdom called Morrisania in what is now the South Bronx. A bachelor bon vivant until late in life, he spent the early 1810s developing the canal system linking New York City to the Great Lakes. Private life trumped politics during the War. In 1813 his 39-year-old wife Ann Cary Randolph (Nancy) gave birth to Morrisania's heir and the following year her family and his plunged them into a public scandal with allegations that Gouverneur II was perhaps not of Morris blood, his mother a promiscuous murderess, his peg-legged father a cuckolded old man.
Morrisania north of New York City,
an estate worth fighting about

America remained enough like England to provide this plot for an Austen novel. The extended Morris family had counted on inheriting from the bachelor squire. Late love, marriage and a young family were not in their plans.

The house overlooking Long Island Sound

Nephews gave the baby a pseudo-Russian nickname "Cuttusoff" but snide family jokes were not enough to disinherit. They had an ally in Nancy's famous cousin John Randolph of Roanoke, a Virginia Congressman temporarily out of office due to his anti-war oratory. Randolph was a 19th-century combination of William F. Buckley and Truman Capote, a mesmerizing speaker with an opium habit and vindictive streak. Like one of his muses Lord Byron, John Randolph was "mad, bad and dangerous to know." Nancy made the mistake of inviting him to Morrisania.

The Harlem River was a Morrisania boundary.
 The High Bridge, an aqueduct, was begun in 1837, 
the year before Nancy died.

Nancy had known him since childhood. Her Morris cousins included John's brothers Thomas, husband of Jefferson's daughter Martha, Richard who married Nancy's sister Judith, and Theodorick who impregnated Nancy before he died of tuberculosis at the age of 21. Eighteen-year-old Nancy suffered a miscarriage at a friend's, awakening the household with her screams. Scandal!!! An unwed, pregnant teenager from an aristocratic Virginia family---but things got worse.

Although a body was never found, the slaves whispered a baby had been murdered. A trial followed, called not by the state but by Nancy's brother-in-law Richard who hoped to put an end to rumors he was the father who had conspired with Nancy to kill the innocent evidence of their affair. He was acquitted but reputations were ruined. Then Richard died, leaving Nancy, John and Judith together at the plantation called Bizarre.

John Randolph in 1811
Painting by John Wesley Jarvis, National Portrait Gallery.
Whittier wrote a poem about his
"serpent hiss of scorning."

A decade later Nancy left Bizarre. Unmarriageable, penniless and alienated from the Randolphs, she sought work as a governess (It is just like Jane Austen!) in Newport, Rhode Island. Gouverneur Morris heard of her plight and invited her to be his housekeeper at Morrisania. Here the plot switches from Austen to Bronte. "Reader, she married him."

Nancy was housekeeper for a few months
 before becoming mistress of the estate

John Randolph's letter-writing campaign against the Morrises began in late 1814. He accused Nancy not only of infanticide but of murdering Richard, of prostitution and of sex with the gardener (in this rendition the murdered infant was black). Nancy was a vampire who sucked "the best blood of my race...and struck her harpy fangs into an infirm old man."

Private battles were made public in open letters

Nancy parried with her own letters including one to the First Lady, Mrs. Madison. "I pray you to shew the enclosed [calling Randolph a 'malignant madman'] to every Virginian in Washington who possesses honor."

Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816)
Detail of a portrait by Charles Willson Peale

Wait a minute, we digress. We were talking about Gouverneur Morris's opposition to the War of 1812. I know Nancy's troubles make a better story so I suggest you choose one of the books below to read more about it and I'll go on to quilts of the era.

I couldn't find any quilts attributed to the large Randolph family but the first style that comes to mind is Cut-Out-Chintz applique, in which images are trimmed from one piece of fabric and arranged on another, a technique popular in Virginia and the Chesapeake area in the early 19th century. 

Cut-out-chintz quilts were also made in New England, New York and the Carolinas. The quilts pictured here might have been made in any of the United States (although we tend to see them originating in areas close to the Atlantic coast.)  The style can represent Ann Randolph Morris, a Southern transplant in New York.

This cut-out chintz center was auctioned recently in London
but could be from the U.S.

Quilt attributed to the family of Thomas Hammond in Virginia
in the collection of the George Washington Foundation.

Click here to read more about this quilt.

The early examples often feature a central tree.
This one was published in Dr. Dunton's book Old Quilts
and said to have been date-inscribed 1807.

This one was auctioned in London, probably English.

Because American chintzes came through London we tend to believe the cut-out chintz style
originated in England, but the date-inscribed English versions aren't significantly earlier than
 those in America.
The tree-of-life compositions reflect a fashion for "arborescent chintzes" (arbor= Latin for tree) that feature gnarly branches so popular in Indian and Chinese imagery and in Jacobean embroidery.

Arborescent chintzes printed in England were quite popular in America in the teens. Many pieces made it through the embargo. A tree-of-life center framed with dogtooth applique seems to be a typical early 19th-century design convention.

This lovely example was featured in the Folsom History Museum's annual Antique Quilt and Vintage Fashion Exhibit in the fall.
Another name for this applique style is Broderie Perse (French for Persian Embroidery).

I'll post more on cut-out-chintz as it was such an important early 19th century style. For more about Ann Cary Randolph Morris see these books.

Alan Pell Crawford, Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman. Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Cynthia A. Kierner, Scandal at Bizarre: Rumor & Reputation in Jefferson's America. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Richard Brookhiser,  Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution. Free Press
Cokie Roberts, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. Harper Collins, 2005
Phillip Hamilton, The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family: The Tuckers of Virginia. University of Virginia Press, 2003.

Jay & Audrey Walz, The Bizarre Sisters. Duell, Sloan & Pierce, 1950
Barbara Bentley, Mistress Nancy. McGraw Hill, 1980

The house at Bizarre burned to the ground in 1813.
John did not blame this misfortune on Nancy.

St Ann's in the Bronx was built by
Nancy and Gouverneur's son as a tribute to his mother's memory.
She and her husband are buried here.