The Quilt Detective doesn't get many shady cases.
But there's some forgery---- or perhaps just misrepresentation--- that's been going on in the antique quilt market for over a decade. The code of the detective requires we solve this case.
Quilt offered at Cowan's Auctions June, 2015, auction
"American. A child's quilt with calico patches and
The auction house grouped this quilt with another small quilt and a piece of needlework.
Estimated value for all three: $75 - $150. The description and price seems accurate for a recent tied, mini-quilt.
Here's a third example in a recently ended online auction.
to begin at $475. Here's the auction description:
MUSEUM QUALITY EXAMPLE OF AMERICAN FOLK ART
23 1/2" W X 32 1/2"L
DESIGN CONSISTS OF 12 DIAMOND SHAPED SECTIONS WITH
BLACK CHILDREN DRESSED WITH
DIFFERENT COLORED CALICO PATTERN GARMENTS
AND STITCHED MOUTHS AND KNOTTED EYES
ORIGINAL WHOLE CLOTH BACKING
EXQUISITE FINE HAND STITCHING THROUGHOUT
THE QUILT IS MID-19TH CENTURY AMERICAN
FOUND IN NEW ENGLAND
IT IS A GRAPHIC AND CHARMING OBJECT
AS WELL AS AN ORIGINAL
ONE-OF-A-KIND EXAMPLE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN TEXTILE ART
THAT MERITS FURTHER RESEARCH
Fortunately nobody bid on it.
In 2004, Darwin posted a note on the Quilt History List about one that sold after brisk bidding in an online auction.
"I agree that this piece is not very old. There were a lot of these floating around about 10 years ago. Well, I guess they have a little age but are they worth the price?"What kind of price? One of my students brought one to class about 15 years ago. She was quite proud of this piece of African-American folk art for which she had paid $1,000.
What's it worth?
I hadn't the heart to tell her: "About $35."---whatever a small, tied, comforter in a "primitive" pattern copied from an old quilt would be worth.
I did tell her that these little primitives are quite common. Note how many I've found at auction on this page. The fabrics look to be about 1990--lots of cranberries and blues that were popular in those years.
A fourth version
The prints and the white plain muslin have been tea-dyed front and back to look old.
I've only seen tied versions, no quilted pieces. Most have this same distressed cotton backing.
Are these coming from the same source?
To anyone with a good eye, these fabric don't look early 20th century.
The prints look like 1980 fabrics, bleached-out and tea-dyed, a technique I used to teach before reproduction prints were available.
I indexed the pieced human figure in BlockBase and my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns as BlockBase #940.5: "Unnamed from quilt ca 1900 in Bishop's New Discoveries."
The 1975 book pictured a variety of
collectible quilts from dealers, collectors and museums.
Here's a snapshot of page 54.
"Pieced Quilt, southern Missouri, c 1900,
73-1/2" x 71" (America Hurrah Antiques)"
Could this pieced design actually be a circa 1900 quilt?
There is a small category of vintage quilts with pieced humans.
But I didn't find many published pieced figures to index. This nine patch
from the Ladies Art Company catalog in 1898, Oklahoma Boomer,
recalls the land rush in Oklahoma.
See more about Block Lotto's 2009 version of the Oklahoma Boomer here:
University of Nebraska collection from the Quilt Index,
Above, an early 20th-century quilt which
is probably a sampler of Ladies' Art Company patterns.
There's an Oklahoma Boomer block on the left side.
So let's assume the original quilt in the 1975 book is an authentic antique.
- Are these forgeries made by one person?
- Or is it a pattern sold and then stitched by people who love a pseudo-folk-art look?
We need some crowd sourcing on these questions.
- Have you ever made one of these?
- Where did the pattern come from?
I've looked and cannot find a similar pattern for sale now, used or new. My friend Bettina remembers it as a commercial pattern from the 1980s but....
Looking forward to the comments.