Saturday, May 25, 2013

Who is that Lady?

I've been going on about this quilt in the collection of the Shelburne Museum, which has been considered a Civil War quilt since the 1950s.
Scroll down for more posts to read more of the rant. I am thinking it's British rather than American
and it could even have something to do with the Crimean War.

The four female figures in the center....

La Belle Chocolatiere

Florence Peto saw chocolate.

I often think of chocolate as the answer to everything but....

What if she isn't a lady with a cup of chocolate, 
but rather a Lady with a  Lamp?

Illustrated London News 1855

Say: Florence Nightingale, the angel of the Crimean War, known as the Lady with the Lamp,
who made nightly rounds checking on her injured soldiers with an oil lamp in hand.

Inexpensive prints of Florence Nightingale and her fellow nurses were quite popular in the 1850s in England, possibly inspiring a silhouette of a nurse.

Florence Nightingale
The Lady with the Lamp became iconic enough that an image of an oil lamp remains a symbol of nursing.
Read a little about Nightingale and her lamp in this text book of nursing:

Now, I have no more evidence that this is a Crimean War quilt than Peto had it was a Civil War quilt---actually less. She may have heard a family story. I am just making it up. I wish she were around to discuss this with---perhaps over a cup of hot chocolate---or a chocolate martini.

I'd say, "Futhermore, Florrie, it's not quilted but a finished spread. Such a British finish to patchwork."

So after three posts, I rest my case.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Civil War or Crimean War?

Last week I wondered about the story on this unquilted bedcover in the collection of the Shelburne Museum. For sixty years it has been published as having been made by a recovering American soldier, a veteran of the Civil War.

Here is a corner block from the appliqued border.

The Shelburne's counterpane features a center panel with human figures, hearts and leafy vegetation floating on a white background, much like this bedcover:

Detail of the center of a  British bedcover by Nancy Horsfall, 1833,
in the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection:

And this one where human figures, horses and other creatures float around a central star: the center of an 1874 bedcover by British children in the Cam Blue Coat School in the collection of Britain's Quilt Museum and Gallery.

The Shelburne coverlet's figures are similar to the horseman in this unquilted British bedcover in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has prominent shapes based on on Hiram Powers's 'The Greek Slave' sculpture done in 1846 (the figure in orange and red above.)
See the quilt at their website here:

Some shapes are similar in the Greek Slave bedcover and the Shelburne's but also important is another style characteristic popular with British patchworkers: the idea of cutting the applique from a large print. In the Greek Slave bedcover the maker was fond of buff and blue stripes:

Buff and blue stripes shaded in rainbow or fondu style were quite popular in America and England about 1840-1865, shown off to nice effect in this American block quilt from Laura Fisher Quilts.

The unknown maker of the Shelburne's counterpane also used large-scale buff and blue prints for figures.

I haven't seen the Shelburne's quilt in the cloth, so I don't really have any visual evidence that the fabrics are earlier than the 1870's period alluded to in the idea that a recovering American veteran made the quilt. I'm going more on style. The style incorporating an appliqued center in a field of triangular patchwork was done in both America and Britain, but by the 1870s Americans were no longer interested in a framed center design.
American Anna Tuel's quilt dated 1786,
a field of patchwork frames a central appliqued design.
Collection: Wadsworth Atheneum

Americans stopped using medallion sets with fields of patchwork early in the 19th century.

British frame quilt
Britons continued to favor the set into the 20th century.

Could the Shelburne's quilt be British? 
And consider the social context: The idea of an American veteran doing patchwork for post-traumatic stress therapy is not a common story.
But it is a common story in Great Britain, where Crimean War soldiers were encouraged to stitch patchwork. A good body of surviving quilts offers evidence that they took to the activity enthusiastically.

Crimean War quilt
Sold at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London

The Battle of Balaclava, 1854

The Crimean War between Russia and England that took place in 1853-1856 is best remembered in the U.S. for Florence Nightingale's work with wounded soldiers, an inspiration to women in our Civil War (1861-1865).

Detail of Private Thomas Walker
by Thomas Wood, 1855
Collection: Royal College of Surgeons

 The idea of men piecing scraps of wool into elaborate bedcovers was popular enough in Britain that an 1855 painting records the activity. 

Americans did not follow the British practice of occupational therapy for recovering soldiers, however.
It is possible that the Shelburne's quilt was handed down with the story of a recovering soldier's making it---but recovering from a different war. This is all speculation but consider this image.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
by Richard Caton Woodville

We've all heard of the Light Brigade made famous in 1854. The Light Brigade were Lancers, horsemen who did not carry guns but fought with swords and lances---long sharp sticks---lighter than firearms. 

The horsemen in the Shelburne's quilt
carry their arms more like lances than like guns.

I have one more post on this.
You have to wait till next week.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Civil War Quilt???

This unquilted counterpane has been in the collection of Vermont's Shelburne Museum since 1952.  In the original Shelburne catalog published in 1957 curator Lilian Baker Carlisle began her catalog entry with:

" This spread, illustrated and described in American Quilts and Coverlets by Florence Peto, was found in New Jersey and shows textiles much older than the Civil War period....Traditionally this counterpane was made by a Civil War veteran whose nerves had been shattered by his wartime experiences. After he was invalided home, he started this quilt as a therapeutic measure..."

She was using information from dealer and collector Florence Peto who found the quilt and probably sold it to the Shelburne. In her book Peto described the fabrics as "chintz, Scotch ginghams [woven plaids I assume], and paisley-patterned calicoes, all characteristic of the period..." 

Peto saw symbolism in the imagery:
"Crescent moons, hearts, and fat, complacent doves may have been introduced to the militant picture to humor a wife or sweetheart."

The central area has appliqued human figures around a star or sun.

This woman with something in her hand seemed familiar to Carlisle & Peto
as La Belle Chocolatiere
(The beautiful waitress in the chocolate shop)

from this 18th century pastel drawing by
Jean-Etienne Liotard,

which became part of the image of the American Baker's Chocolate Company in the 1880s.

Following a field of triangular patchwork are more human figures, men on horseback alternating with men on foot.
The last border is a variation on the patchwork field.

There seems to be a difference of opinion between Carlisle and Peto. Could it be that the quilt is made of  "textiles much older than the Civil War period." rather than "characteristic of the [Civil War] period."

Two British quilts with similar figures

It's foolhardy to try to date fabrics from photographs. The best evidence available from photos is style. This unquilted, finished counterpane has much more in common stylewise with British quilts than American.

I just doubt that it is an American Civil War commemorative.

More next week after I marshal my arguments.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dixie Dairy 5: Tokens of Dried Roses

Block 5
Tokens of Dried Roses

 12" version with a 1" frame, set on point
By Sandi Brothers.

Block 5
Tokens of Dried Roses
8" Version

Sarah Morgan's grief over lost memories is echoed in a sawtooth star.

Dried flowers pressed in an album dated 1867

Union and Confederate armies clashed near the Morgan houses in early August. Sarah's home was severely damaged, not from shelling but from vandalism by the victorious Yankees. The women left the Asylum and  moved from friend's house to friend's house, landing at a plantation twenty miles north of Baton Rouge. At the end of August sister Miriam returned from a trip home to their battered neighborhood.

Andrew D.Lytle 
Baton Rouge with the State Capitol in the distance

August 25, 1862 Linwood, East Feliciana Parish

"She says when she entered [our] house, she burst into tears at the desolation. It was one scene of ruin. Libraries emptied, china smashed, sideboards split open with axes, three cedar chests cut open, plundered, and set up on end; all parlor ornaments carried off…. They entered my room, broke that fine mirror for sport, pulled down the rods from the bed and with them pulverized my toilet set, taking all Lydia's china ornaments I had packed in the wash-stand. The debris filled my basin and ornamented my bed. My desk was broken open. Over it was spread all my letters, and private papers, a diary I kept when twelve years old, and sundry 'tokens of dried roses, etc,' which must have been very funny, them all being labeled with the donor's name and the occasion. Fool! how I writhe when I think of all they saw…Lilly's sewing-machine had disappeared; but as mother's was too heavy to move, they merely smashed the needles."

Library of Congress

Sewing machines were considered the machinery of war because uniforms were sewed on them. Union soldiers often destroyed machines when they came upon them. Breaking the needles was enough. With the blockade Southerners had a hard time getting replacements.

The pieced block has a BlockBase number.
BlockBase #2830
Aunt Eliza's Star

Cutting 12":
A:  Cut 1 square 6 1/8".
B: Cut 4 squares 4 1/2" for the background.
C:  Cut 3 squares 5 1/4". (1 of background, 2  for star points).  Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts.

You need 12 triangles.

Cutting 8":

A:  Cut 1 square 4-1/4".
B: Cut 4 squares 3-1/8" for the background. (3-3/16" is the larger measurement if you use the BlockBase 1/16th" default)
C:  Cut 3 squares 3-7/8". (1 of background, 2  for star points).  Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts.

Make 4 corner units out of square B and the triangles. Then make diagonal strips.

Optional applique
Applique a star or a heart after piecing.

Go back to the January 5, 2013 post to see a JPG with the heart and the star.

A soldier occupies a Southern mansion.
William Waud, 1864
Library of Congress