The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, is featuring an exhibit of whitework until May 22, 2011.
Marseille: White Corded Quilting, the first major display in the world of all-white quilted and corded French needlework, explores its development in Marseilles, the fusion of technique with design imagery, and the integration of this needlework into other cultures as it was exported, adopted and re-transformed over three centuries in three continents.
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Broderie de Marseille is a form of three-dimensional textile sculpture using plain white cloth and white cotton cording, deftly manipulated with needle and thread to reveal patterns highlighted by the resulting play of light and shadow on the textile surface. Skillful execution of broderie de Marseille resulted in delicate, refined work that graced the homes and figures of aristocrats and launched an international passion for all-white corded needlework. The quilted works were filled with imagery expressing contemporary values, such as folk legends (Tristan), heraldic devices and royal monograms (on bedcovers), and floral wreaths an fruits symbolizing good fortune and fertility (on wedding quilts). Contemporary versions, today often referred to as "matelasse," are machine made and thus lack the intimate connections to the work represented by the confections of the original needleworkers-almost all of them presumably women.