COTTON PATCHWORK QUILT
Dutch, ca. 1795–1800
Trade, political history and a distinctive regional aesthetic come together in this exceptional Dutch quilt. Its most striking visual impact is the wealth of patterned cottons that document over eight hundred different designs of both Indian and French origin. From the formation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602, Dutch merchants imported Indian chintzes, used for furnishing and dress, in increasing variety and quantity into the eighteenth century. Dutch merchants also purchased cottons from neighboring France, favoring those from the leading printing centers of Jouy-en-Josas and Alsace. When the Netherlands fell to the French Revolutionary armies in 1794, the victors imposed a policy of buying only French goods, which further increased the importation of these cottons.
Although quilts made from Indian chintzes are listed in Dutch inventories from the early seventeenth century, these were made of whole cloth, palampores or yardage. In the late eighteenth century when both Indian and French cottons were more widely available, the technique of patchwork appeared and quickly gained popularity. Dutch quilts dating to about 1800 are characterized by a veritable sample-book range of Indian and French patterns; an overall geometric composition of squares comprising four triangular pieces of fabric; and the balanced juxtaposition of cottons with light- and dark-colored grounds.
The quilt’s maker created an impressive graphic statement that attests to her sophisticated design skills. The enormous number of cottons, some of which repeat in different areas of the quilt, are an indicator of her socio-economic status, while the inclusion of examples dating to the 1770s and 1780s, many with their original glazed surfaces, in turn reflects their status as cherished consumer goods. The designs include delicate florals typical of madder- and indigo-dyed Indian export cottons as well as startlingly modern-looking geometric and abstract patterns of French origin. Primarily block printed, there are a few examples of monochromatic plate prints and two Indian embroidered pieces. Many of the cottons, including the floral trail border with passionflower and thistle, relate to patterns in the collection of the Musée de l’Impression sur Étoffes in Mulhouse, France. Clearly a labor of love and intensive effort, this finely constructed quilt is meticulously sewn in backstitch with precisely clipped raw edges on the reverse side.
Found in Pennsylvania, the quilt was likely brought to America by a Dutch immigrant in the early nineteenth century. Its original rectangular shape was later altered to accommodate a four-poster bed; squares from both sides and part of the indented lower edge were removed and added at the bottom to create a flap. The quilt is very similar to an example dating to the same period in the Netherlands Open Air Museum, Arnhem (TR 47–1978) and to another, dated 1796, in the VLISCO Museum, Helmond (S 10/3), both of which are illustrated in Quilts, een Nederlandse traditie by An Moonen (1992), pp. 56-7 and pp. 152-3. It also relates directly to another quilt dated 1796 in a private Dutch collection which was made in the so-called Zaanstreek, the wealthy industrial area north of Amsterdam. In addition to several identical cottons in both, the quilts share a compositional arrangement with central and corner rosettes, spiky stars and light-and-dark palette. The quilt is in excellent condition with a handful of carefully inserted replacement pieces.
110.5" H x 108" W