Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imported Prints: Rococo

Above: two rococo prints as quilt borders
Watching Downton Abbey occasionally inspires me to toss out the American walnut pie safe and buy a Rococo Revival armoire. It's highly unlikely---but I have been noticing more Rococo design in antique fabrics.

The Drawing Room at the real castle
was decorated in the 19th century,
an example of Rococo revival.

The footed vase is a staple of rococo design

Rococo (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable) is a style of European decoration---high fashion in the 18th century there and lagging behind a few decades here.  It's characterized by a plethora of pattern---layers of decorated surfaces, in particular shell-like shapes. The word Rococo, applied in the 19th century when the revivals began, is thought be a combination of French and Italian from the French rocaille for stones and coquilles for shell, a play on the word Baroque.

My grandmother loved this look.  (Probably why I collect plain walnut pie cupboards.) William Morris was not fond of it either.

Characteristics include the scroll, the s-curve, the double s-curve, trailing ribbons, gold leaf, the illusion of net and the cartouche...
Cartouche- a scrolling frame

Cartouches & Baskets

Many of the furnishing-scale prints, the chintzes, of the 1800-1820 era show rococo influence.

Above are two small scraps from a quilt finished in the year Britain's Princess Charlotte died, 1817. The quilt was shown at the New England Quilt Museum last summer.

If you want a good stash of early prints look for cartouches, scrolls,

and curves.

Rococo detail is not a good clue to date since it's been revived so many times.

But it is a definite look in early 19th century chintzes

This John Hewson vase printed in Philadelphia
about 1800 shows a European rococo influence.

So where are you going to find rococo repros? The look is popular in decorating weight prints
and check out Kaari Meng's Paniers des Fleurs for French General and Moda.

The irony in the old quilts---in case you haven't noticed it---is the combination of the over-the-top rococo prints with simple and direct patchwork. 

A quilt probably from the 1840s
 with a border chintz in courtly Rococo style
 and blocks in Germanic folk art style

Read more about Rococo at these links:

The Cooper Hewitt Museum had an exhibit a few years ago:

Heckscher, Morrison H. "American Rococo". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

"Identifying Stylistic Trends in 18th Century Dress Silks" by Sherri Shokler

Knowing more about Rococo style explains some of those strange shapes that float through chintzes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Imported Prints: Indiennes & Mignonettes

The madder red print is a small, simple figure repeated in a staggered or half-drop repeat. One description for this style is an Indienne. The one above looks like a woodblock with a background of picotage (tiny dots) but it may be a roller print. I am guessing early 19th century.

Another Indienne in blue on white

Western textile manufacturers learned much of their natural dye technology from Indian artisans. They also appropriated design, adapting floral chintzes to large-scale furnishing fabrics and borrowing images for smaller-scale dress prints that also found their ways into quilts. In France exotic designs inspired by Indian textiles were called Perses or Indiennes (French for Persian or Indian.)

The blue and white print from a British quilt about 1800 could be classified as a mignonette or Indienne

An Indian style print in two colorways
 from an 1820s swatchbook
with a scattered floral at the top---
less Indian, more European in design.

One of the most enduring cultural exchanges is what we call Paisley pattern, composed of cone-shaped figures--- an oval shape with a curl on the end. The image is traditionally known as a botha or boteh, from the Hindi word buta for flower. 

A selection of Indiennes or shawl prints
 from about 1800-1840.
Sharp geometric edges in printed figures echo a woven figure.

Other imitations of Indian design were called shawl prints or cashmere designs, cotton prints that imitated more expensive woven figures by adding horizontal or diagonal lines across the figure. Figures in shawl prints often had squared-off edges to give the look of a geometric woven pattern. 

A floral and a boteh---
new blocks for printing---imagery hasn't changed

In France the tiny figures were also known as mignonettes, a French word that can be translated as "little fancies" or "miniatures." Like Indian design, mignonettes were loose abstractions of floral forms.  

A new Indian print. 
India prints remain popular for interior design:
bedding and tableware

This new bedsheet echoes the multicolored prints and diagonal repeat so popular in the 18th century.

Here's a reproduction Indienne from my Lately Arrived from London collection:
The Ship Surprise

The original Indiennes were block printed in India but by 1800 English and French factories were copying them in abundance. Once roller printing became the dominant technique in the teens more complex prints in Indienne style became possible.

Here is a page from the London magazine Ackermann's Repository, the September, 1812 issue. These periodicals had a page each issue with fabric tipped in (glued in to them.) The fabric glued into the spoke at 1:00 above is very similar to my reproduction print, described as "a sea weed ground printed (cotton) cambric so evidently calculated for the humble order of morning and domestic wear."

Turkey red print from about 1840

We see many multicolored calicoes in this style in the 1810s and '20s as printers increased their color skills. Indiennes achieved their greatest popularity with American quilters after 1840 when Turkey red prints in mignonette style became quite popular for applique and friendship quilts.

See more about these later prints at this blogpost

See some early Indiennes from India (printed and embroidered) at the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

Several of these pictures are from the online dealer Morgaine-le-Fay. Click here:

And see Amanda's very useful collection of Ackermann's Allegorical Woodcuts (the page with the swatches) from 1812 here:

Here's a page of fashion from Ackermann's from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bird Prints: Reproductions

Reproduction quilt top by Claire McKarns
Claire framed a pheasant toile with pieced triangles and mitered a madder-style stripe.

Bird prints were so popular with quilters during the 1810-1840 period that reproduction stashes require them, but they are hard to find in quilt-weight fabric. Here are a few you might have in your chintz cupboard.

Jo Morton's 2010 reproduction of a "Bird Chintz" with a dark ground.

And a very accurate Drab or Quercitron yellow ground.

Read Jo's Journal entry on this print and its document here:

Harriet Hargrave reproduced pheasants and a plum tree in her Birds & Basics line a few years ago.

See Kimberley Wulfert's post on this line with a review of the literature on the bird chintzes:

You can always find birds chintzes in decorator-weight fabric like this one, which has a great bird for Broderie Perse. The background is too red to be an accurate reproduction but  those birds isolated would look pretty good.
It's easier to find bird prints as single-color toile reproductions.

Toile from the back of a quilt about 1830-1850.
The toile is probably 1800-1820.

Terry Thompson and I reproduced the toile above about a dozen years ago for our first Moda reproduction collection called Floral Trails. Surprisingly, I found some still available on line.

The tan colorway

Kaye England has a nice chintz out in English Lane. She has done some great bird repros over the years.

Including this bird of paradise which Georgann Eglinski used in her reproduction of a quilt shown in a book by Robert Bishop years ago.

Georgann Eglinski, Thank You, Robert Bishop

The turkey fabric that Georgann used in this strip quilt is also from Kaye---quite a while ago.

Georgann Eglinski, Turkey Red, Turkey Blue

I also remember a good bird chintz in a Fons and Porter line many years ago. I guess that's why we keep a stash. You'll find a use for it someday.

You may have to use a heavier weight decorating fabric to find good bird toiles.

Here's a miniature with a bird toile from an Etsy store by Annette Plog