Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Dark Ground Chintzes #2: Floud's Observations

Fabric with "moss-sprays" on a "dark ground"
from a gown in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an April, 1957 article for Connoisseur Peter Floud of the Victoria & Albert Museum summarized style he'd noticed in textile records from 1790-1810, particularly "The Dark Ground Floral Chintz Style" and images of "moss-sprays."

Floud's illustrations were in black and white but one
 can see the similarity to the print above.

Lilac moss-spray with a few dark ground florals in a pieced pocket

"Dark ground floral chintz ...dominated the last decade of the 18th century" in the sample books he examined. He particularly noted the moss sprays, finding a few with printing dates from 1791-1794.

Another dress from the Metropolitan. The yellow has faded.

Dress style helps date this garment as does print.
As Floud said these dark ground florals were
quite the rage between 1790 and 1810.

The basic printing technique was madder-style printing using mordants to obtain different colors and then added yellows and blues, when layered making green.

Quilt from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas

The background color, printed in madder dyes, has a distinctive shade.
"The ground itself, which is always of a characteristic purple-black---sometimes appropriately referred to in the pattern books as damson...looks unmistakably different from the pure black or blue-black grounds...from logwood and indigo."
This swatch shows the purple shade of the background. The iron
used to mordant the brown stems has caused that area to rot.

This background printed with madder and a metal salts mordant was not an added ground, which is why registration between figure and ground was so well done.

Floral trail set, blooms connected by sinuous stems---
 another popular dark-ground style.

British dress 1780-1790
Cora Ginsburg LLC, 2005 catalog

Dark-ground chintzes were popular for clothing in the U.S. as well as for patchwork quilts.

So popular that we can see them as a fad. Patchwork contrasting dark ground florals
with white or light prints are among the earliest date-inscribed American quilts.

Quilt date-inscribed 1786 by Elizabeth Bowman Nace of Hanover, Pennsylvania.

The dated examples range from 1780s to the 1810s

1797, Elizabeth Webster, MESDA collection

Some are plain & some are fancy.
Not all the quilts in the high contrast style use dark-ground chintzes, but each contrasts
dark prints with lights.

1797, Hannah John, Maine project

1795, M. Campbell, National Museum of American History

They have 21 detail shots of this quilt online.
I've color-corrected the pinkness of their photos.

1795, Jane Gatewood, West Virginia project & the Quilt Index

1787,  Rachel Mackey, now in the Chester County Historical
Society in Pennsylvania

17?? by R? Porter
American Museum in Britain

This has been read to say "in the Year 177?" but it could just as easily read 179? to date it more consistently with the other dark ground/light quilts. Another thing to notice here is that Ms. Porter's star points are not pieced, they are appliqued.

Margaret Gundacker, 1810, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Margaret's is one of the latest with some new style creeping in. Notice
her cut-out chintz appliqued center.

Tomorrow more quilts undated but consistent with the 1790-1810 fabric fashions.


  1. Such dainty little prints. Fabulous dress though. Thank you.

  2. Any differences in colors named plum, puce and submerging?

  3. I wrote “aubergine” but spellcheck intervened!

  4. T14719 Smithsonian quilt is on the National Museum of American History website with more information. ve