Saturday, November 25, 2017

Three Applique Samplers for the Quilt Detective

Dawn knows I love a quilt coincidence so she sent a mystery to solve.

"Rare pieced and appliqued cotton bedcover, 
American, possibly Baltimore, circa 1850"
86" x 75"

This terrific applique sampler was sold at Sotheby's three years ago. It is indeed quirky with 
peacocks (?),  horses, a medallion format and a lot of dots.

The center block has a Christian cross,
maybe a tombstone?

She noticed a twin medallion with lots of dots, a Christian cross and a peacock---
no horses but a herd of deer. This one is from dealer Jan Whitlock's
They both look to be mid-19th century.
Jan's caption:
"Important Southern Applique Quilt Top, Jan Whitlock Textiles & Interiors"

She also spotted a third appliqued medallion
Christian crosses, peacocks and deer.
Other commonalities:
the border, the wreaths, etc. The photo is not great but
it does look like a 20th century version.

Well, I don't know what to make of it. My first thought was New York (New Yorkers loved to put horses in their sampler quilts) but Sotheby's thought Baltimore and Jan Whitlock thought Southern.

What do you readers think?

Go to the Sotheby's site and look at their enlarged photo of the quilt.
Here's their copy about the quilt on sale:
"A 'summer spread,' two thickness of delicacy cotton, without batting, elegantly appliqued with small, precisely cut patches of printed, solid and plaid cotton, sewn with hem stitches; each of the 42 squares displays a horse with bridle and saddle; a peacock with tri-part tail with appliqued and hem-stitched "spots;" floral wreath, the central square with a peacock perched on the back of a horse, grasping a rope rein in its bill beside a flower-twined cross, banked by more flowers under an arching grapevine laden with clusters of grapes; the whole within a grapevine border. Provenance: Elliott and Grace Snyder Antiques, South Egremont, Massachusetts, 1995."

UPDATE: Sunday November 26. Look at this:

The sampler is in the collection of the Morris Museum, documented by the New Jersey project where they noted: "Many interesting applique blocks, many not seen elsewhere. Lots of detail."

Very little information about it.
UPDATE: Monday
These things often get out of hand. You start out with two and then you have 5. Notice the similar ungainly borders in the quilts below. Both have blocks with an excess of berries.

The quilt on the left & below is from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, thought to be from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The one on the right is the quilt in the Morris Museum.


  1. Hmmmm, I hope she provides an answer to this riddle. I have no idea but am curious.

  2. The staggering number of appliqued pieces on these quilts blows my mind!!!!

  3. that sotheby's is incredible. So many mixed plaid peacocks!?.. and I love that the bird legs are the same size as the horses.

    My gut says a rich and well traveled southern lady..

  4. I agree they are alike but different..my thoughts some upstate New Yorker lady made the pattern and challenged her small group of sewing ladies to make their own quilt but had to use the arched vines and birds plus make it a medallion... I keep both pictures in my pictures of antique quilts folder....and I always thought they were related in design....I had given it much thought to make a new version of these.

  5. also thought maybe the Rachel Meyer 1850 quilt had similar things, deer, wreath & horses. I'm sure they shared patterns as we do today.

  6. The fact that it is described as "A 'summer spread,' two thickness of delicacy cotton, without batting," makes me guess it is a Southern quilt. But what do I know?

  7. Found an article titled American Saddlebreds: The Peacock of the Horse World that might explain the symbols of the quilt.

    It mentions that Saddlebred horses known as the peacock of horses were used during the civil war as officer's mounts.


  8. I like the peacock on the horse's back.

  9. I'm going w NY state. Think Folk Art Museum's Civil War bride's quilt, IQSC Reconciliation quilt & other NYS albums w animals. Very few BAQs have animals, mostly Designer III (Meyers, Goodman, Miller). Not common Maryland motifs. Don't know of southern examples like Jan's, which is so similar to the Sotheby's example that there must be a common source, sighting, shared pattern. Debby Cooney

  10. The first quilt in your post was included in "The Quilt Engagement Calendar 1997". It may have been on the cover.

    The description says: Applique and embroidered memorial quilt top, Massachusetts, c. 1850. 90" x 80". What a delightful and special piece! The repetition of the horse and peacock motifs and the large cross in the center lead one to suppose that the quiltmaker was memorializing favorite creatures. The result is enchanting. Photograph courtesy Shelly Zegart. (collection of Jane Katcher)