Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let's Compare

Four chintz medallions attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins
There are at least three finished chintz medallions with the same design as the one I have, including mine. A fourth one appears unfinished in Dr. William Rush Dunton's 1946 book, Old Quilts. A fifth one shares many similarities, but also some key differences.

Mine is the middle in size of the three completed medallions that match
Let's start with mine. It is the middle in size of the three completed medallions that match in design. Its size is 10'2" x 9'2". It has a fruit border on three sides, bouquets in two corners along the edge with no border, and a complete medallion with a circle of swags framing the design. The chintz has either lost its yellow dye, or never had it to begin with. Based on other examples, it may be reasonable to say it originally had yellow in the printed chintz. This example was not documented by Dr. Dunton.

The "Lassotovitch quilt" - owned by the Lassotovitch family
The closest match is the one we're calling the "Lassotovitch quilt" because it was owned by the Lassotovitch family when Dunton published his book. It appears in color in Dena Katzenberg's Baltimore Album Quilts book, which was published in 1980. Most everything is a match except the overall size, the color of the chintz, and the motifs inside the small circle of swags which surround the center panel. This example is 9'2" x 10'6". It has the same fruit border and all the other elements match except for those inside the small circle of swags surrounding the center panel. In this one, there are birds and butterflies. In mine, there are peaches and pineapples.

The "Thompson quilt"
The third example is one we're calling the "Thompson quilt" because it was owned by the Thompson family when Dunton's book was published. This one is 9'4" x 9'10" - the smallest of the three completed examples with designs that match. Inside the center circle of small flags are different motifs, which appear to be bunches of fruit and flowers. It's difficult to tell because of the size of the plate, but these shapes do not match those in the other two medallions.

The "Hammond quilt" - incomplete, but same design
The fourth one is incomplete, but looks like it was going to be another of the same overall design. We're calling it the "Hammond quilt" because it was owned by the Hammond family when Dunton published his book. No dimensions were recorded, and it was in pieces with chintz basted or pinned to the ground. There are some interesting notes from Dunton, who says, "From it we gain a good idea as to how these ornaments were built up, and especially, how the graceful vine of the Lassotovitch coverlet was formed."

The "Glenn quilt" shares similarities and differences
A fifth example seems to share enough similarities to make it worth mentioning. We're calling it the "Glenn quilt" because it was owned by the Glenn family when Dunton's book was published. According to Dunton, the border was cut off some time prior to 1932 so the quilt would fit a modern bed, and the leftover chintz was used to decorate curtains. He says, "Despite its mutilation it is beautiful, and now measures 7'4 & 1/4" x 8'." Aside from the lack of border, the most obvious difference is the incomplete outer circle of the medallion. There are two large swags at top, but these swags do not continue around the sides and bottom. To my eye, it looks like an experiment- less resolved, and perhaps an earlier version.

Before I saw the full view of my medallion, I was hoping it would be like the Lassotovitch and Thompson quilts because this design is my favorite of all the medallions attributed to Achsah Wilkins. At first, we thought it was the Lassotovitch quilt, but the color didn't seem right, and the fruit inside the small swags wasn't a match to the birds and butterflies in the Lassotovitch quilt. That quilt is thought to have remained with the family. We knew it wasn't the Thompson quilt because the border fabric wasn't a match.

By the way, these families that owned the Achsah Wilkins quilts were all descendants of her father, William Goodwin, and it is likely the quilts that are in locations unknown to us are could still be in the family. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dr. Dunton's Book

Dr. William Rush Dunton's seminal quilt history tome, Old Quilts, arrived in my mailbox today. I thought the connoisseurs in the audience would appreciate pictures of some of the details about the book. It was a library copy, and is stamped "DISCARD" in three places. Wow, if they didn't want it, I would've taken it. The original price was $5.00, and my copy is not numbered. And of course, there are pictures of the Achsah Goodwin Wilkins quilts!

While I was looking at the book and thinking about the chintz medallion, which, by the way, is not in the book, something occurred to me...

There's an uncanny William connection. Achsah Goodwin Wilkins's father was named William. Her husband was named William. They had a son named William. The man who documented and published her quilts in 1946 was named William. My name is William. Coincidence? Or is Achsah Goodwin Wilkins actually watching over her quilts? 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bowties Quilt from Texas, c. 1960

Here's a quilt I bought just because I liked the combination of colors. It came from a seller in Texas, and it's a Bowties variation made around 1960. At first I thought it was a 50s quilt, but I think some of these fabrics may be just a little later than the 50s.

So, what do you think? Did I get the date right? Do you see something in the fabrics that I don't? Post a comment and share your thoughts.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rethinking Rococo and Romanticism

François Boucher Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour, 1756
If you asked me about Rococo and Romanticism back in college when I studied art history, I probably would've rolled my eyes. They weren't my favorite periods, and I clearly hadn't developed an appreciation. Boucher and Fragonard are the painters I remember most from the Rococo period, because their work is really over the top.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767
In a lot of ways, Rococo and Romanticism seemed like Marshmallow Fluff with whipped cream on top- it was decadent, sickly sweet, and lacked substance. It was terribly sappy. If there was a romantic period in quiltmaking, the Broderie Perse applique tradition would be it. Broderie Perse, French for Persian embroidery, was popular in Europe in the 17th century and in America in the mid to late 18th century to the first half of the 19th century. These are the quilts I once called "too girly" because of their elaborate, decorative floral motifs.

Broderie Perse Applique Chintz Medallion, c. 1820, Baltimore
Now that I have an amazing example of Broderie Perse, it's given me good reason to rethink Rococo and Romanticism. Barbara Brackman, in her 1812 War and Piecing blog, posted an entry about Rococo style in Broderie Perse applique, specifically looking at the Achsah Goodwin Wilkins medallions. In some ways, the Romantic period revisited the whimsy of the Rococo period. It was the perfect style for affluent homes, which were often furnished with elaborate, ornate objects. Achsah Wilkins's designs are iconic representations of Romanticism, made in the Romantic period.

A fancy, Broderie Perse bedspread is exactly the type of thing I would expect to see in the home of the most affluent families in Baltimore in the 1820s. Not just any family could afford to make such a thing. It's an elegant object, and I think the word "elegant" is the key to rethinking Rococo and Romanticism. In my younger days, it was all was just a little too frilly, "too girly" and hard to take seriously. Today I'm beginning to see it as elegant, refined, and whimsical. There may be something to it after all. 

Great Cities Squared, 2000-2010, by Christine Wrobel

Once again, what a lucky guy I am! After my lecture at the Pacific West Quilt Show in Tacoma, a few audience members, including Chris Wrobel of Sequim, Washington, stuck around to chat. Chris showed me a New York Beauty quilt she had made. When she unfolded it, the quilt really took me by surprise. I've seen a lot of New York Beauties, but never anything quite like this one. It included cityscape fabrics, and one of the prints had the World Trade Center in New York.

One of the other attendees, Georgia Chiarella, who is also an AQSG member, called a few days later to let me know Chris was looking for a new home for her quilt. Chris and I saw each other shortly afterwards at the Quilt Adventure in Bellingham. To make a long story short, I made her an offer, she said yes, we worked out the details, and the quilt arrived yesterday.

The white points really stand out on the dark blue, sparkly fabric. And the inclusion of the Twin Towers triggered memories of being at the top of the World Trade Center dining at Windows on the World, and being airborne in an American Airlines jet during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Not your ordinary quilt!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How big is it?

Up in the loft with rocking chair - it took up the whole wall!
A few people have asked, "how big is it?" - so I thought I'd post a couple pictures of the quilt hanging around the house. It is 10' 2" x 9' 2" and is made of four vertically pieced panels of Marseilles cloth, each around 27" in width. The 7 & 1/2" wide border adds to the size because it is not laying on top of Marseilles. Interestingly, each of the three borders is one whole strip of fabric!

Just hangin' around the house...
So that's how big it is in terms of scale, but the enormity is in the discovery. Such a rare thing, and there are so few available for study. How it was made is fascinating, and enlightening. One of the other comments I'll share is about the weight. It is very light for such a huge thing. The Marseilles cloth is very thin, but very strong, resulting in a durable bedcover that's as light as a feather.

Chintz Medallion Details

The details of this Broderie Perse Applique Chintz Medallion are pretty jaw dropping. Here are more pictures. Enjoy!

"Put a bird on it!"
A flower was used to patch an area where there's a loss
The flowers look like hydrangeas and peonies 
Fine applique on textured ground
An elegant bow ties the leaf sprigs together.
I like that this little sprig was included.
Detail of the border fabric.
A leaf, with one tip that's come loose
Shall we call it a lily?
Some of the finest applique work is in the vines
Flowers, leaves, and vines 
More flowers, leaves, and vines
A lovely bunch of branches 
Complete section of border fabric
A bunch of flowers
Twill tape edge finish, mostly seen on the back
Be still my heart!
The last detail shot is the show-stopper for me. In the small circle of swags around the center medallion, those swags are joined by heart-shaped patches. Be still my heart!