Thursday, May 24, 2018

Eighteenth Century Fabrics

This fanciful copperplate-printed floral fabric is from the late 18th century.
It is certainly something to crow about when you've got an object with fabrics seen in "Printed Textiles: English and American Cottons and Linens, 1700-1850" by Florence Montgomery. The seminal textile history book, first published in 1970 by the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum was revised by Winterthur curator Linda Eaton and re-released four years ago.

I have copies of both editions in my library, but it is not often that I get to use them to learn about quilts in my collection.

Yesterday a new acquisition arrived. It is a quilt found in Connecticut with fabrics from the 1770s and 1780s. The quilt is blue and white, now yellowed from age, and it has large pieces of figural, copperplate printed toile with chinoiserie imagery.

The print appears in Florence Montgomery's book, in a quilt on page 266 (figure 275).

Plate 275, page 266, Florence Montgomery's book

The description reads as follows:

"Chinoiserie scenes and pagodas, center of a quilt with two late-eighteenth-century, block printed polychrome floral borders. Center: Plate-printed in red at Bromley Hall, 1760-1775. Paper impression inscribed "Pagoda."
Edwards and Darly's New Book of Chinese Designs, London, 1754, provided the designer with most of the vignettes. "Pagoda" may have appeared first about 1760, but this fabric, with blue threads in the selvedges, was probably printed after 1774. The pattern is known printed in blue, and at least one copy of it was made."

Plate 75, page 193 of Linda Eaton's revised edition of the book

A colorplate showing the print in red and white appears in Linda Eaton's revised edition of the book, plate 75, page 193. The description includes some of the original text from Montgomery, but there is additional information about the print:

"Mary and Matthew Darly were important artists, engravers, and printsellers in London; George Edwards was a well-known artist and ornithographer who entered into a partnership with Darly to produce their design book. This fabric serves as the central panel of a quilt made between 1790 and 1825 from older fabrics. This cloth was probably once part of a set of bed hangings. Although the selvedges cannot be seen, an almost identical piece in the Winterthur collection has blue threads in the selvedges."


Printed at Bromley Hall; about 1775
Selvedge width greater than 27 inches
(quilted), probably blue threads
Design repeat 32 7/8 inches
1961.1759c Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

The other print in the quilt is a fanciful floral along the upper left and upper center edge of the quilt. It appears in Montgomery's book, Plate XXIV on page 227 and Figure 240 on page 247. It is described as Exotic flowers. Plate-printed in blue, 1775-1785. A bedspread of this pattern printed in brown was acquired by the Museum from Mary Means Huber, who inherited it from the Bradley family of North Haven, Connecticut.

It also appears in Eaton's revised edition of the book as colorplate 110 on page 212, with the following additional information:

"Plate-printed furniture with a design of exotic flowers, feathers and pineapples. The fanciful designer used peacock feathers for leaves and included stars in the petals of some of the flowers. A bedcover with this design printed in purple (now brown) is also in the Winterthur collection.


Printed in Britain; about 1780
Selvedge width 27 1/2 inches, blue threads
Design repeat 34 1/8 inches
1969.3241 Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

The recent acquisition from Connecticut is not in the best condition. It is backed in wool, and the fabric is worn away in places. The quilt's value is really in what it can teach us, and it's amazing what we can learn when we have resources as great as Montgomery's and Eaton's books.

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