“Domesticating Quilts: Furnishings, Formalism and Folk Art” by Linda Eaton


so my task was to discuss quilts in the
context of textile furnishings in the home within our symposium that’s
happening about quilts in in context and this is an enormous con topic the I want
to tell you a little bit about the background where I’m coming from because
what I’m going to be talking about is a little bit different from the kinds of
things that you most frequently hear about quilts winter term Museum for
those of you have not been is an enormous enormous institution it’s based
on the ancestral home of a very wealthy collector Henry Francis DuPont who is
collecting – initially just to decorate his home and then you know couldn’t stop between the 1920s when he first built a
house on Long Island his summer home on Long Island which I’m going to show you
some photographs of and then expanded his ancestral home on the winter estate
between 1929 and 1931 during the depth of the depression so he amassed a very
unusual collection and it’s within the context of that collection and the
context of his collecting that I’m going to be really speaking to you today the
technical the talk is really going to be split into three hopefully somewhat
related topics which are furnishings formalism and folk art these are three
of my favorite rants I’m a woman of rants and so these are my favorite rants
I am NOT attempting to give you a comprehensive history but I’m going to
be discussing aspects of quilts in a domestic context that are less well
known and very closely related to the work that I’ve been doing on winter
tourist collection which I believe has got a wider relevance so I’m just not
navel-gazing here so I am NOT going to be talking about the quilts with really
wonderful personal stories in this case a quilt made for John Russell
the minister of old Otterbein Church in Baltimore who was leaving that church in
1854 or really about any of the other beautiful quilts that were made to
commemorate and celebrate personal events in the lives of their makers and
which are so highly prized today what I’m going to be talking about first are
the types of quilts often but not always made by professional women working in
the upholstery trade or in embroidery and quilting workshops who were quilting
to earn a living and used to furnish homes very often at early pier in the
earlier periods furnishing them with quilts that were symbols of wealth and
of status the stories of these quilts start very early in this case in the
17th century and this quilt was probably located in Italy or somewhere in that
part of the Mediterranean we really know so very little about these early quilts
once thought to have been made in India for the Portuguese trade my colleague at
Winterthur Maggie lits has researched this quilt extensively and has not found
any evidence of their use in Portugal or of their making in India so as we were
beginning to wonder about this we sent some samples off to Europe and my friend
and colleague young voters did some dye analysis for us and showed that this
yellow color was produced by weld a European dye stuff and therefore really
not something that could or would have been made in India early quilts were
often made in pairs and what is believed to be the mate to this quilt is in a
collection in England and I’m hoping that you’re going to be able to see this
but it’s really light but there’s a central
ship in the middle of there and around that central that central ship is a
strap work with four medallions of man wearing turbans sort of very Eastern
kind of dress the mate the piece that we believe is the mate for this has man
wearing European headgear in those round ELLs surrounding the ship Maggie who did
the research on this quote feels that this was probably made to commemorate
the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 that battle if you’re a little sort of shy on
your history right that battle was the first naval battle where Europeans
defeated the Ottoman Navy at that time the ottomans were coming into europe and
looking to take over and so that event was depicted in paintings and tiles in
tapestries and other fine and decorative arts for over the next hundred years
something that was really resonated for a long time so i guess that that is a
commemoration of some kind but not really a personal one I’m showing this
example of what is sometimes known as false quilting because the back stitches
of the geometric design on the ground are worked through only two layers
there’s no batting in this so-called quilt but these needlework bed covers
embroidered in this case in gold silk were highly fashionable in the wealthy
households of England in the early 1700s this example was purchased by the donor
who gave it to win deter from the sale of ash Burnham place in England which is
a large historic house that got sold off the contents got sold off in the 1950s
the people who had owned Ashburn in place for centuries
been major court years in the courts of Charles the first and Charles the second
kings of England so you knew that these people were important people with a high
status in society at the time this was made in a professional workshop in
London and the quilt itself the bed quilt on the far side had a number of
matching cushions only one of which survived originally there probably was a
pile of three cushions of diminishing size that would be piled on the foot of
the bed as another show of wealth and and comfort I’m showing you a detail
here because close examination of the needlework shows the original design
drawn on the fabric for the geometric quilted design that’s the background and
I can can if I move with this I can move here right so here you can see evidence
or you I hope you can see evidence of a red line that’s been hand drawn in
Vermillion the design by which those embroiderers would follow and this would
have been done it would have been made as a yardage with this standard design
being broidered yard after yard after yard to create this quilt then after all
of these minut background stitches were done somebody else came in and drew the
design for the more elaborate embroidery in a black ink and that in turn was
embroidered by a team of probably women mainly women although men also did
embroidery at that time to create what was really a luxurious bed cover at that
time the ground is a very fine and tightly woven cotton really really
really fashionable and unusual at a time that linen would
have been more common in the early 18th century imports of printed and painted
Cotton’s from India were banned in Britain in an attempt to protect their
wool and their silk industries but it remained legal to export these fabrics
to import them into London and then re export them to the plantations or the
colonies of America or to elsewhere in Europe these vituperative calico debates
went on and on and on for about 20 years as this this ban was debated backwards
and forwards but I find it very interesting that one argument put
forward of not banning them was the employment that it gave to poor quilters
in London who would be taking these beautifully hand-painted and printed
fabrics cotton fabrics buy from India and actually quilting them using wool
batting and linen threads and often a linen backing like this one has to
create bed covers so why would be why would people be interested in the
employment of women quilters in a debate that a concern to international trade
well wealthy people had to support the poor
through the charity of their parish structure at that time and so one thing
that happened was that people were very interested in providing work to keep the
poor off of these parish registers what you’re seeing whoa here is the stamp of
the United India company and this example in
winters collection has got a history of ownership in a family in
Delaware I was able only to trace it as far back in terms of documents to an
elderly woman who died in Wilmington in 1880 and her obituary was headed death
of an eccentric woman I loved it when I began researching winter to his
collection I realized that a large proportion of the collection much larger
than any other museum collections that I had seen consisted of 18th century in
early 19th century printed whole cloth quilts these types of quilts have not
been at the forefront of quilt scholarship collecting or exhibition and
I really knew very little about them and why did winter have so many well the
quit the answer that I came up with was that winter tourist founder Henry
Francis DuPont inherited a quilt and a set of matching bed hangings through the
family of his mother and they’re seen here in use at winter in the 1890s yeah
you can date them from the sleeves exactly exactly exactly yeah we can all
date these things very closely now it was a Tuesday right Jonah was a Tuesday Henry Francis du Pont was inordinately
proud of these and using this evidence he very correctly deduced that these
were the type of fashion of fashionable furnishings that were in use in the
American colonies and in the later in the New Republic and whenever he saw
something that he liked and he responded to and felt was suitable and
sophisticated and elegant enough to furnish his home he bought them in large
quantities and I roomful in honor of the exhibition
indigo gives America the blues which I’ve so much enjoyed seeing here I
thought that I would show a quilt in magic bed hangings made from a type of
print that’s often known today as indigo resist but which in the 18th century was
known as paste print a paste print the quilt that you can just see on the bed
there is a period quilt and the hangings that you see the valance and the
curtains are antique fabric but they were made into a balance and curtains
into the 20 in the 20th century designed from copied and modeled on
period examples the pasted print trim you can see that blue and white tape
trim around there balance that is also antique fabric that has been reused by
Henry Francis DuPont using this type of antique fabrics was a common practice
amongst wealthy collectors at the time but that’s a whole nother lecture the
point I want to make with these is that these quilts these beautiful quilts were
not used in isolation within the home they were part of a whole set of bed
furniture which is what they were called here’s an example of a period valance a
lot of valances survived and the way that curtains don’t because curtains are
yardage and you can make them into something else but here is a paste
printed valance one of many in winters collection and I’m showing you a number
of details so you can see that really lovely spotted border around the edge
and I don’t know whether you can see it at the bottom here but the beautiful
small can you just see those tiny little stitches this is the most amazing
high-quality hand stitching that you’ll see on a fabric that was not the most
expensive at its time did something happen can you still hear me
okay good sorry I should maybe I should stop moving around so because I know
that you’re very interested in quilts on that first bed that I showed you I
thought I would show you the quilt that you couldn’t see in that photograph and
here it is in its entirety just one of these standard whole cloth quilts in
this case that it’s the pattern of the fabric and not the quilting that is the
issue and so most of these pieces just have very straight forward you know
diagonal crossed lines or you know just very basic quilting patterns on them
but what makes this example so extraordinary is the back yes isn’t that
wonderful I love that too the many of these paste prints paste
prints were produced in Germany and France and Scandinavia and Romania in
you know a lot of Central European company countries and in Britain and in
Ireland and in Scotland most of the ones with these blue grounds I thought to be
French or German but here is an example that I feel pretty sure is probably
originally British from this late from the 1750s copperplate prints were highly
fashionable amongst British and colonial upper-middle class who were often very
wealthy I want to make sure that you understand that the upper middle class
the gentry level in Britain were people who were very very wealthy often very
very highly educated elite merchants lawyers bankers but above them in the
social snobbery level was the Noble and the royalty right so the gentry
level were these these types of quilts and bed hangings and fully hung beds
were highly fashionable amongst this upper-middle class level of society we
know from surviving records that floral designs were the most widely produced
and the most widely used but they are not the most common to survive what
tends to survive are these figural prints this one is
copied the designs were taken from a 1785 publication of phenol ins novel The
Adventures of Telemachus first published in 1699 if you don’t remember reading it
at school the story ostensibly was about Telemachus who is the son of Ulysses and
Penelope who with the goddess Athena who was conveniently disguised as his
guardian mentor they were cruising around the Mediterranean which went in
search of his father who was taking an awfully long time to come home at the
end of the Trojan Wars so you know Putin Penelope you know the whole story about
her weaving so this story in this book that was published in 1699 has been
interpreted both as a criticism of the lavish spending and despotism of the
French monarchy but it also has been interpreted as an advice manual for
youth emphasizing self-control and financial economy hard to believe it was
a best-seller for centuries I suspect it was much more strongly
popular with the parents than the children but nevertheless people would
sleep in beds fully surrounded by scenes from this story on their curtains their
bed hangings and their quilts here’s another example of a best-seller that
appeared on your bed furniture here’s a whole cloth quilt that depicts scenes
from Oliver Goldsmith very long I have to admit very boring poem the deserted
village I read the whole thing that poem talked about the land clearances and
enclosures of land in the late 18th century when many rural tenants were
displaced as the British agricultural practices changed some of these people
moved into the cities to work into the factories the textile factories the
textile print works but others of them crossed America in the eighteen teens
when this quilt was made everyone would have recognized this story of the dance
and the departure and this was wildly popular in America despite the fact that
America was referred to as that horrid Shore in the poem in this case two
different eighteenth-century chinoiserie fabrics were that were once used for bed
hangings were stitched together to make a quilt in the nineteenth century but
there is evidence that these quilts and bed hangings using fabrics of these
chinoiserie fabrics of this type remained in use for considerably long
periods of time the fragments of the inner border and so
I’m really talking about this fabric here not the central one and not the one
on the outer border but that fabric has been found used as bed hangings that are
associated with a house in Guilford Connecticut cultural historian Betsy
Garrett Widmer has discovered that the abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher
Stowe slept in a bed in her aunt’s house from made from fabric used for that
border that was said to have been brought back by a seafaring uncle I’ve
got to tell you all of these are thought to have been brought back from seed
bring uncle’s so I’m not sure I’m believing that but you know hey stell
recalled in her journal and I’m quoting the almost awestruck delight with which
I gazed on a strange mammoth plants with great roots and convolutions of branches
in whose hollows appeared Chinese summer houses adorned with countless bells with
sleepy-looking mandarins and sleepy-looking mandarins smoking and a
Chinaman attendant just in the act of ringing some of the bells with a hammer
also here and there were birds bigger than the mandarins with wide open beaks
just about to seize the strong looking insects and a constant wonder to me to
my mind was why the man never struck the bells nor the bird ever caught the
insect this is what a fully furnished a fully hung bed in the late 18th century
would have looked like with curtains balances and quilt that are all original
and all period and not this fabric is a famous one in this
country known as the apotheosis of Washington and Franklin and we know that
it was used widely for furnishings on both sides of the Atlantic remember that
not everyone in Britain was against the Americans during the Revolutionary War
many people supported the bid for representation in Parliament
not everyone was represented not everyone had the vote at that time many
of them were anti-monarchists so there was a lot of support for the American
Revolution on both sides of of the Atlantic but we do know that this was
used widely in this country in 1785 Tommy shippin described exactly this
type of bed hangings in a letter to his sister Nancy who as far as I can tell
was the biggest flirt of the American Revolution he was staying at his uncle’s
house in New York Richard Henry Lee his uncle was at that
time serving at what was called as the president of the Congress and so he
lived in the president’s house but it wasn’t George Washington the president’s
house it was the president of Congress and Tommy wrote to his sister my chamber
is a spacious and elegant one and prettily furnished I’m now right in it
and which way so ever I turned my eyes I find a triumphal car a Liberty Cap a
temple of Fame or the hero of Heroes which means George Washington all of
these and many more objects of a piece with them being finally represented on
the hangings so there’s someone who’s sleeping in this bed these this quilt
and these hangings were made by professional women working in the
upholstery trades either in the major cities of the east coast of America or
in London the ubiquitous encyclopedias Denis Diderot illustrated the workings
of a friendship pole story works in the mid 18th century so you can see
the empty chair frames at the top the stuffed and covered chair cloth covered
chairs which are still familiar to us today is the work of an upholsterer but
notice the many textile furnishings notice that canopy and it’s hanging
notice what looks like a pile of comforters which are probably mattresses
note in the room back room at the top of the stair of valance and some hangings
and whatever that is folded up with the guy that’s coming down the stairs
and notice the women sewing in the table in the background before elaborately
hung beds went out of style in the 19th century it’s been estimated that the
women’s side of the upholstery trade represented at least half of the income
generated by these businesses if not more these were not the women who were
working in ateliers in Marseille or the specialist quilting workshops of London
making quilted petticoats or embroidered bed covers but women working in
upholstery workshops or some of them possibly as out workers for such
businesses the larger upholstery firms operated more or less like interior
designers do today providing a variety of services to their clients which
included making curtains bed hangings and matching quilts a big side of the
women’s side of the upholstery trade was making mattresses and you’re seeing here
an illustration from an 1836 book of trades published in Glasgow and doesn’t
that look like a quilting frame to you there’s really a very fine line between
what is a mattress and what is a quilt and if you go in the real wayback
machine to the 14th and 15th century the term quilt very often just
something puffy and luxurious and is often interpreted to be a mattress
rather than a bed cover in this case one woman is carding wool for the filling
but mattresses could be filled with a variety of materials including curled
horsehair feathers or down many upholstery work rooms had a space known
as the feather attic feel early renewed can you imagine all those feathers
getting old right before you had dry cleaning and we know that Betsy Ross’s
younger sister Rachel Griscom did this type of work for the wealthy
Philadelphian Elizabeth drinker in the late 18th century so this was a common
type of work for women in the upholstery trade oops
tight rein is off there we go it is due to Marlon Miller who is the author of
the only scholarly biography on Betsy Ross that we know as little as we do
about the women working in the upholstery trade more properly known as
Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypool Betsy trained and
worked for about five or six years under the supervision of an King who was in
charge of the women’s side of an upholstery business run by a man named
John Webster in Philadelphia and these are her glasses and her homemade glasses
case Betsy’s first husband John Ross was a journeyman in the Webster shop and
together he and Betsy set up in business on their own after they married after
Ross’s early death Betsy married twice more advertising her upholstery business
each time in the name of her husband although neither of them had anything to
do with the business one was a mariner the other one was a
customs official it was only after she was widowed for the third time that the
business was advertised in her which at that time was Elizabeth
Claypool betsy is best known for making flags and this is what I believe is the
closest possible candidate for a flag that was really made that could have
been made by Betsy Ross it’s an Indian presentation flag from the early 19th
century that belongs to thee it’s in the collection of the Chicago History Center
many Philadelphia upholstery shops turned to making flags and other
military equipment during times of war at either the Revolutionary War or the
war of 1812 and we know that Betsy like the others did that the issue of whether
Betsy did or didn’t make the first American flag is not an issue that I’m
going to go into now but we do know that she undertook a variety of other types
of upholstery work the women’s side of the upholstery trade although sadly
Marla has not yet been able to document that she made quilts she did make bed
bed furniture though bed furniture so it’s very likely that she could have
made quilts we know however that quilting was part of her life and the
life of her daughters and her nieces many of whom would leave home and then
come back to work with Betsy in times of need this quilted petticoat descended in
Betsy’s family and is said to have to have been worn by her but whether she
made it or not I couldn’t say the Ouija board is my research tool of choice so
if anybody would like to join me we can maybe we can find
we haven’t been able to prove it otherwise however many other members of
her family made some beautiful quilts as personal treasures rather than
commercial products in fact when we were researching possible objects for an
exhibition held at wintered her about Betsy Ross based on Marla’s research I
thought it was going to turn into a quilt exhibition at one time there were
so many so many examples survived in the family most of them produced by
generations after Betsy though but we did put in some really key examples the
example that’s on the wall there I put in specially for Carolyn where are you
Carolyn because I know you’d like to see it this was made by or for Betsy’s niece
Margaret Donaldson Boggs her initials the only name that’s on his clothes are
quilted in the center of that chintz applique Philadelphia chintz
applique quilt Margaret first lived with Betsy as a
young girl after both her parents died and she moved back in with her aunt
after the death of her own husband Joseph Boggs and she became a key figure
in Betsy’s upholstery and flag making business and if you can just see there
is a piece to silk quilt in the case in front of it that was made in 1841 by
friends and family as a gift for Kathryn can be the daughter of Betsy’s youngest
daughter Jane Claypool can be and it was Jane’s son William Canby who during the
time of the American centennial made his aunt Betsy Ross so very famous by
claiming that she had made the first American flag
another beautiful quilt in the exhibition was made by Betsy’s daughter
Clarissa Claypool Wilson whose portrait you see they’re a little bit oblique Lee
on the right Clarissa had married an accountant and a
time when accountants that was a new kind of business that was a new kind of
occupation they didn’t have accountants very much before them but he was an
accountant and they moved to Baltimore but after she was widowed after her
husband died she moved back to work with her mother and the business became known
as Claypool and Wilson Betsy retired about 1827 but Clarissa
continued the upholstery business for another thirty years until 1857 when she
moved to Iowa to be with to live with her daughter in her old age this quilt
is still owned by one of her descendants and remains in the family I don’t know
about you but I find it amazing that a woman who earned her living with her
needle would choose to create a complex quilt requiring so much stitching unless
what must have been very precious spare time so that’s kind of the end of my
first rant and my second rant is about formal design I started thinking about
formalism and quilt design when I was researching the extraordinary quilt made
in 1815 by Mary Remington of Warwick Rhode Island in the year before her
January 1816 marriage not only did Mary make that bed cover but she quilted the
valances on the bed and a demi lune dressing table cover that you can see at
the far side I love telling Mary a story which is really just like a soap opera
you know did he marry her for the money was her father gonna get a divorce was
her husband playing around when he was building ships in New York it goes on
and on and on but that’s a different that’s a different lecture what I really want to do is to focus on
the design of her quote and the sophistication and formalism of this
design the central part is right in the center of the quilt contains the
Remington family coat of arms with the helm and I’m hoping you can see this
because it’s really hard so with the helm the crest the shield the mantling
and surrounded by palm branches at the bottom with a motto ribbon that says by
the name of Remington all quilted in stuffed work staff to work quilting
phenomenal tour-de-force of quilting she obviously was a very
very skillful woman by the 18th century the whole system of heraldry was
beginning to fall apart originally heraldry these coats of arms were
intended to be a means of identifying all of those knights in shining armor
that’s what it was originally for knights in shining armor arms were
granted to individuals not to families and still according to the rules of the
College of Arms in London today there is no such thing as a family coat of arms
the format of the shield and the crest in particular change with every
generation so no one has exactly the same coat of arms but similar motifs and
things come down through the family we know that coats of arms were used in
this country by people who may or may not be entitled to have use them we know
that they were painted on the doors of carriages we know that girls embroidered
them at school some of them with designs very much like the one that Mary
Remington quilted my point is not to discuss the vagaries of heraldry
though but a formal design the formal format that you find in many types of
quilts want to compare Mary’s heraldry to the use of the Lauderdale’s cipher
and coronate in the park ‘tree floor of the Queen’s closet of ham house in
Surrey installed in the 1670s the cipher was not a coat of arms but a decorative
motif and it operated in much the same way signifying wealth and status in the
family in the same way that Mary was using her coat of arms on her quilt both
of them I’m hoping you can see this both of them are surrounded by a type of
design is often known as strap work a style that seen in use by the late 17th
century for over a century and which itself was signifying tradition and
heritage these old-fashioned very traditional designs are the kinds of
things that come to the fore when you want to show how important you are or
you’re celebrating a major family occasion like a marriage sorry can I go back there Mary was the
only child of her parents she was due to inherit her family’s considerable wealth
and she would lose her surname upon her marriage to pellet kangen Congdon
in January 1816 so the issue of women’s surnames whether to keep it or change it
when you’re married is not a new issue it’s not an issue that came to the fore
in the 20th century it was one that was very much debated and discussed and
there were rules all about it especially if you were in Arras it’s worth noting
that both of Mary’s sons had the name Remington her maiden name as
their middle name and so that was a very important thing many people did that it
was a very meaningful important thing I want to make sure that you’re
understanding that I’m not just associating with a floor just because
it’s got some kind of a motif I’m associating it with floors for a purpose
the design of Mary’s bed comes out of a European tradition of formal beds the
example that I’m showing here is the famous Melville state bed made for the
first Earl of Melville and 1700 and it was intended to demonstrate his wealth
and status to anyone who saw it this was a time when the fabric was the most
expensive thing you would own after maybe your silver plate it was far more
expensive than any piece of furniture you would own and the youth the lavish
use of fabric and trimmings was the sign that you were wealthy and powerful these
kinds of beds were found in special bedrooms created mainly for show or
occasionally stayed in by somebody like the King but these were not utilitarian
beds in everyday use by members of the family and these were not everyday bed
hangings this is now in the VNA and I’m going to be talking about the design on
the counterpane and inside the tester but I couldn’t find any photographs of
it to show you so you’re gonna have to trust me when I say that this is in a
long line of things that I’m going to be talking about of designs of floors and
ceilings the format for architectural strong architectural ceilings for
reflecting designs and ceilings and floors was a widespread one and became
particularly popular with the advent of neoclassicism in the 18th century
and I’m showing you here the formal drawing-room at Osterley Park a house
not far from London which was remodeled in the late 18th century is a glamorous
country retreat for the child family owners of child’s bank banking was a
very lucrative business back then as it is today the interiors were designed by
Robert Adam in the 1760s who designed both that feeling and the Axminster
carpet that is on the floor in the drawing room
I’m getting closer to quilts for the state bedroom at Osterley Adam designed
the ceiling the bed carpet around the outside of that bed and the state bed
itself that are all related all related in the architectural context for that
room Adam also designed the counterpane the bed cover for the bed which reflects
the design in the tester and that round thing at the bottom is is what you would
see if you were lying in that bed and looking up that’s the tester and what
I’m also hoping you can see is that central medallion with the four circles
can you see the four circles and a little bit of the medallion in the
ceiling that is architectural connection with the design of that bed cover here’s
the entry hall it’s easier to see in in in plaster and stone but here’s the
entry hall at Osterley what I want to stress is that these neoclassical
designs were very fashionable throughout Europe but they were incredibly
fashionable in the new American Republic after the
I wore this neoclassicism harking back particularly to Rome and the democracy
of Rome was something that the Americans were very very proud of very proud of
making that connection I know that people I know that if anybody goes to
room I get anyway any of my friends that go to Rome I end up with these
photographs going oh look this is just like a quilt taking pictures of all of
the tile and mosaic floors right people are nodding you’ve seen it you’ve all
taken the pictures okay so there is a connection there really is a connection
it’s not in in your dreams what I want to show though is that this connection
is intentional and that women would have been aware of these designs even if they
had never traveled outside of the American colonies or the new American
Republic one way that they could have been familiar with these designs is
through pattern books widely circulated on both sides of the Atlantic and what
I’m showing you here is the title page of a book of floor decorations published
by John Carr with them in 1739 and what I’m hoping that you can read is that he
claims that this will be useful to gentlemen and workmen by the perspective
views in he seven several head pieces as entertaining to the ladies in colouring
them so many of these architectural pattern books were available and used
not just by men but also by women so here are a couple of examples of floor
designs in that book and I’m hoping that you can clearly see the relation to
quilts one very interesting thing amongst women scholars at the moment is
work that’s being done to establish the value of the cultural value of women’s
craft work in the 17th and 18th century people who would have been coloring
these or making quilts or working embroidery and the cultural and social
value of their work which is not something that we’ve recognized before
so here are two more I want you to note that the designs are represented lies if
the quilt was hanging but then at an oblique angle and that’s an important
thing because these designs were specifically used because when you’re
looking at a floor you’re not looking at it straight on you’re looking at it at
an oblique angle and think about it if you were seeing a quilt on a bed you’re
not seeing it straight on you’re seeing it at an oblique angle as you walk into
that room so here are some illustrations from Diderot so ubiquitous encyclopedia
everybody uses Diderot so I’m sorry these were published between 1762 and
1772 but I’m going to put them alongside some quilt patterns that will also show
that these quilt patterns were very closely associated with these
architectural designs for floors this is a quilt that was made in how the well
main about 1800 by Martha aggrieve on this second one is much more simple made
with fabrics that were fashionable in the eighteen teens and a very simple
pattern of blocks on point and here is a quilt that’s a slightly later example
made for Elisabeth Webster about 1850 this style of quilt was fashionable
among the Orthodox Quaker community in Philadelphia and winter has a very
closely related quilt on which Elizabeth Webster’s name is made that was done as
a friendship quilt made and put together by family and friends to celebrate the
marriage of Sarah Williams and Samuel Emlyn sadly Elizabeth Webster’s fiancee
jilted her and hers is the only name that appears on her quilt
which descended through the family of her niece and her namesake until it came
in to interest collection it’s not just floors that influence the design for
quilts in the early 19th century the science of optics geometry and design
and pattern reform or of interest to a variety of early design reformers the
forerunners of people were like Sir Henry Cole who was involved in the Great
Exhibition in London in 1851 and helped found the Victorian Albert Museum whose
collection was originally intended to be a source of inspiration to designers at
that time another of these reformers was David Ramsey Hey who published this book
amongst many others a member of the Edinburgh based aesthetical Club a
society dedicated to founding a science of beauty made based on mathematical
principles hey designed carpets geometrical
pavements and paper hangings which were all viewed by the spectator with various
degrees of obliquity so Hayes book of geometrical diaper patterns and the word
diaper just means a repeating pattern not something that you cover a baby’s
butt with right it’s a small repeating kind of includes many designs like this
and I’m hoping that you can also see the relation to quilt patterns and here’s an
example with overlapping circles and forgive me for the poor quality of this
image but it’s the only one that I’ve got of a wool whole cloth quilt in
winters collection I know that the design is not exactly the same but I’m
hoping that it’s close enough that you can see this connection to geometry
mathematics these quotes were often made by highly educated with
they just didn’t have that piece of paper that diploma from Harvard or the
University of nebraska-lincoln to make it official so I hope that you’ll
recognize this quilt as being part of the whole movement of formal design that
relates to architecture science geometry in the 18th and 19th centuries the
sophisticated designs of highly educated women and men this is a friendship quilt
made by Hannah Woolston Kohl’s of Camden New Jersey in 1841 and it descended in
the family before coming to Winterthur in 2007 so this is an example of very
formal formal design architectural related design quilts seen as the floor
of your bed so how did we get from there to here the commonly held view of quilts
in the early 20th century this picture was published in country life in America
in December 1910 and associates quilting with rural uneducated elderly women and
the folk traditions of bygone days which is the final theme of my talk the folk
art part yeah pretty amazing isn’t it the definition for folk art has been
much debated for about a century and remains a thorny issue today interest in
the fine and Ecker ative arts produced by conservative rural communities grew
out of the 19th century romantic nationalism of Europe a time of great
unrest when smaller countries who had been subsumed into larger empires sought
to promote their own identities or where countries which had been reduced to
poverty in the 19th century looked backwards to their days of greatness
this promoted the study of traditional local customs sometimes termed peasant
traditions and one of the most well-known
proponents of this was the Swede Archer his alias who created and toured
exhibitions of folk costume and other decorative arts and studied traditional
music dance and food ways which were thought to be rapidly disappearing due
to industrialization azaleas founded the Nordisk a Museum of Swedish Swedish
ethnography and the nearby open museum at Skansen which I’m showing and if you
ever have the opportunity to go to either of those they’re wonderful with
fabulous textile collections winters founder Henry Francis DuPont was an
early collector of peasant costume which he acquired first on a trip to the
Balkans in 1907 with his close friend the landscape architect Marian coffin
and her mother these are some of the photographs that they took coffin
published a description of their trip in an article in National Geographic
magazine the following year folk art is often termed the art of everyday life
and Henry Francis DuPont did write a letter to someone where he said I’m so
interested in everyday life this is a man who had opera music piped down
throughout his golf course and who who didn’t know how to tie his shoes because
that’s what valleys were for but he was very interested in everyday life the
United States had become heavily industrialized in the 19th century and
the reaction was an interest that focused on the survival of pure honest
and traditional communities in this country the equivalent of the European
peasant community communities which is a little difficult to define an American
peasant in a democratic society this trend was part of what later this trend
was part but not all of what later became known as the colonial revival
when antique quilts were collected and really beautiful new ones were made and
there’s some wonderful examples and the exhibition here quilts and other
decorative arts influenced the modernist artists of the early 20th century and
here I’m showing a painting by Charles Schuyler who is better known for his
abstract paintings of industrial industrial sites and buildings but this
painting is entitled American interior and dates from 1931 many designs for the
hooked rugs and things they’re very similar to quote design so I hope that
you can see a connection because I wasn’t able to find a modernist painting
that depicted a quote the later photograph I’m showing you here shows
Schuyler with Edith Gregor how port Halpert
whose downtown gallery displayed both folk art and modernist paintings and
sculpture she worked very hard to popularize Sheeler and other early
modernist American painters and artists but the folk art that she sold upstairs
in her gallery was her bread and butter and kept the business in operation the
overlapping of the worlds of anthropology folk art and modernism came
together in an organization known as the folk art society with a gallery on Fifth
Avenue in New York where they showed an exhibition of Hawaiian quilts in 1938
and I’m showing you a wonderful example from the quest of the collection here
Franz Boas who was considered the father of American anthropology was the
honorary president of that Society and other members included Edith helped
heard the woman with the gallery and supporting modernist artists winters
founder Henry Francis DuPont who was the chairman for a while
Lucy Morgan the founder of the Penland school of handicrafts in North Carolina
Holger Cahill and art critic and curator at the New York Museum who later became
the head of the Works Progress Administration in 1935 and many others I
mean glorious listed these people but the one
person who should be well known to quilt scholars with was Ruth EEB right
Finley’s a journalist and an author and I want a quote from the forward to her
1929 book old patchwork quilts and the women who made them linking quilts with
this modernist aesthetic and she said while the present-day vogue for
patchwork is due primarily to a deeply stimulated interest in all things
historically expressive our of our national background and growth the wide
and very youth varied use of old quilts undoubtedly has been greatly furthered
by the modernistic trend in every branch of decoration towards brilliance of
color and boldness of line today’s taste is not shocked by such antique
combinations as purple and Suri’s nor by composition so stark as to be
geometrical so reviews of the exhibitions mounted by the folk art
society tell how interior decorators as well as modernist designers were
interested in the shapes forms and motifs found on quilts and other types
of folk art and in case you can’t read that let me read quote the first
paragraph where this review by Walter Rendell story says homely sincere and
decorative in the modern sense of being well suited to its function the
old-fashioned article made in home or village workshop still serves the uses
for which it was intended and at the same time inspire as many a motif for
modern made furnishings because this material is so highly valued today it’s
really difficult to remember that folk art in particular and American
decorative arts in general were quite controversial in the 1920s and 1930s
when many wealthy collectors felt that the only image that only European
material was worthy of the term art elektra have
my web who you see here with her husband she of course founded Shelburne Museum
in Vermont her mother had an important collection
of art much of which is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art she once very
famously said to her daughter how can you Elektra you who have been
brought up with Rembrandt’s and mayonnaise how can you live with such
American trash and of course in addition to the cigar store Indians and Chimel
Eagles much of her collection included many exquisite examples of quilts and
like other collectors of her time she used quilts to decorate her country
house in Shelburne Vermont on the bed but also cut up and used to upholster
the chairs there’s a piece quilt covering that chair in the background of
her bedroom and then this easy chair with a funny funky wheel on the back was
upholstered for mrs. Webb by Wanamaker’s department store a department store that
sold quilts and other antique textiles and other antiques so the role of
department store has very much changed today it is also a wonderful bedroom in
the upstairs of the brick house and if you ever have the opportunity to go you
should see it that is completely lined with piece fabric that was probably once
a quilt so it is difficult for us to comprehend now but it was once very
fashionable especially amongst wealthy collectors to use antique quilts to
cover their furniture here are two examples taken from the influential
magazine arts and decorations Wanamaker’s who upholstered that chair
for Electra Havemeyer Webb imported French quilted petticoats which had just
the right amount of yardage to cover an easy chair
I know I was booed once when I started talking about this when DuPont when
Henry Francis DuPont who also dealt with Wanamaker’s queried the high price mrs.
Tyson who ran their Antiques Department replied while they are all old still
they are not over 100 years old the key being that if something is over a
hundred years old you don’t have to pay import duty on it which jacks up the
price okay right so they’re not over 100 years old so that we are forced to pay
duty on them our man who collects these quilted things for us in Paris tells us
that they are probably 60 to 75 years old we get them in rather deplorable
condition and have them cleaned in Paris before they’re sent to us this wasn’t
just a fashion in America another article from arts and decoration
describes the quilted chintz furniture covers used in both the London and Paris
apartments of the couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli who is a close friend of
Salvador Dali and other surrealist artists so this was very very chic and
highly fashionable so in America these types of interiors where modernism and
the Colonial Revival met and mingled you can notice here the aesthetic collection
which I hope you’ll notice the aesthetic connection between a Quaker quilt that
was used on a bed at winter in the Philadelphia Empire bedroom and a hand
tufted tufted rug designed by Marianne Dorn was one of the most important
textile and carpet designers of the 20th century I first started realizing this
connection when I discovered this late 19th century quilt in winters collection
it was so completely different from Henry Francis du Pont’s aesthetic that I
couldn’t imagine why he had bought it so I gave it to a student as a project as
great having students write I gave it to a student as a project and Justina
Barrett tracked it down and discovered that it had been used upside down on a
bed in the Thaksin room dupont valuing the
geometric quilted design of that sort of beige light brown background on the
cheap cotton backing rather than the glory of the fully saturated colors on
the front of that piece to quilt Albert Barnes whose art collection has
recently been moved into center of Philadelphia from its original home in
Marion which is just outside of the city also decorated with folk art and quilts
so you’re seeing Albert and Laura barns outside their country house Kerr file in
Chester Springs in 1942 and a quilt on the table in their show quilt their show
kitchen inside they had a completely separate kitchen where where all the
food was actually cooked this was their show kitchen the Barnes’s and the du
Pont’s were very close friends and Albert Barnes saw connections between
his collections and the collections at winter turf so the bonds foundation
still teaches classes in Barnes’s sub went quirky approached art based on
commonalities of shape design form and color which he elucidated by displaying
iron work painted chests and a variety of other decorative arts and crafts
alongside his Ren Juarez and saisons which themselves were very controversial and these are in so one of his most
famous pieces is in the top corner they are called the dance by Matisse which
was carefully transferred to central Philadelphia from its original home in
Merion Matisse often used textiles of various kinds in his paintings and one
of my favorites is this which is in the Barnes collection in Philadelphia and so
Matisse bought that fabric in an antique shop in Paris and used it more than any
other fabric in his paintings and I’m clicking here is the beautiful example
in your collection here of that very same fabric and you see the basket
repeated backwards and forwards so I couldn’t resist because this is such a
beautiful cause I couldn’t resist showing this one but I need to tell you
that I have acres of this stuff too and DuPont did decorate not a quilt but
decorated a room with this and he was very fond of these paste prints that are
very resonant and might to my eye to some of the work of Ralphie and another
modernist painters so as folk art began to be fashionable in the 1920s antique
quilts were hung on the walls as works of art in galleries and in the homes of
the wealthy elite in this case in du Pont’s summerhouse Chestertown in
Southampton in the late 1920s they were also used to create beautiful interiors
at a time when the field of interior design was just becoming
professionalized but always these quilts were in the country homes of these
wealthy collectors on top of the aesthetics quilts were still associated
with warmth and Comfort and the story here this is two
views of what is known as the new mores room at Winterthur staying at Winterthur
could be an enormous ly stressful occasion and DuPont would show would
take tours of the house after these elaborate dinner parties there’s a story
of one woman who arrived late and went running up to her room and threw off all
her clothes and got dressed for dinner went running down and then DuPont
started leading the tour after dinner and they got closer and closer to the
bedroom that she was staying in and she thought oh my goodness I left my
stockings hanging over the bed and I 11th you know what and he opened the
door and swept in and she said it was like she had been dead like she’d never
been there it was all beautiful and looked completely different and one of
the reasons was that for show in the nemours room DuPont had a unquoted whole
cloth bed cover not even a pillow in sight right not a bit of comfort but
when the room was used for guests there was a pieced quilt with that same
design of the fabric used as a border around the edge and so that was what was
used for guests but the whole cloth bed cover was used for for show so it’s
really only in the late 20th century that quilts and folk art came to be
prized and displayed in the elegant apartments of the rich and famous in New
York the difference is not that they weren’t prized and displayed in elegant
interiors but before before the 1970s those interiors were in the country
houses of the wealthy elite within the context of winter and dupont’s
collecting but what really is different is their location in the city the
aesthetics of their arrangement but what remains the same is really the diversity
of the stories that these quilts can tell in the context of people’s home
and the domestic interiors thank you

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