Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dark Ground Chintzes #3: Defining a Style

Dark ground prints, one with a cracked ice figure, a version of a floral trail.

Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, attributed to 
Chester County, Pennsylvania 
This lovely quilt is undated but consistent with the nine-patch quilts we've been looking at 
inscribed from about 1785-1810.

Light ground and dark ground chintzes featuring floral trail style sets

Copp Family Nine-Patch, Connecticut
 Smithsonian Insitution
Estimated date 1790-1810

Beyond patchwork pattern, style characteristics here are a high-contrast color scheme
using very dark ground prints I'd call brown and very light prints or plain white.

Detail from the Copp quilt

Much like one dated 1808 by Ester Carter
Ester's uses more limited fabrics

For more about early nine patch quilts see this post

 Martha Frances Dabney Collier (1744-1815), About 1790, Virginia
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg

This star and tulip medallion  is quite worn, showing the particular problems with dark brown cottons and linens. The mordants weaken the fibers so the dark colors wear before others.

Connecticut project & the Quilt Index

Star quilt, Smithsonian Institution

These are not the kind of patchwork you see in Great Britain.
I'd guess it is an American style.

The undated quilts are attributed to about 1790-1810 based on the popularity of dark ground chintzes as described by Peter Floud and the date-inscribed examples shown in the last post.

From the Michigan Project
This almost a wholecloth quilt is so minimal it's modern.
The appeal of the dark/light style is the simplicity of the high contrast look.

Elizabeth Wilber, Old Sturbridge Village Collection 
in Massachusetts

Then there are style subcategories.

A border or flounce or a red and white toile.

From the Massachusetts project and the Quilt Index


Smithsonian, no information

Detail of a quilt from Susan Greene's collection, now in the DAR Museum

In the comments here Susan Greene, author of Wearable Prints 1760-1860, directed me to some pages in her book about the dyestuffs and colors that made these browns. See page 135-142.

Tomorrow we talk about the color of the dark ground fabrics.


  1. Something about Ohio stars that I am drawn to. But that first nine patch is lovely. Love the darker colours. Cheers :D

  2. If you really want some answers, please see what I wrote on brown and black 135-142, and Appendix I on p 538. Also 276-288 and 344-355. (Wearable Prints, 1760-1860: History, Materials, and Mechanics) I just finished writing a nice scholarly response here, which disappeared in the blink of an eye when I stupidly hit a link in my sidebar, so maybe all I need to say is.....take a look at the book including the history of printed cotton use, and logwood and manganese.

    This is the quilt from my collection, used a lot in the book and now in the collection of the DAR museum in Washington. Some of the patches are fustian.

  3. Pat L. Nickols,

    Your book, tho heavy in weight, is a real heavy-weight for in-depth understanding of how mordants and dyes achieved some of those wonderful early colors. I always know a little more after I go to 'look up something.' Your conversational way of writing seems to urge me on to read a little more, learn a little more, and understand a tiny bit more.

  4. Pat is talking about Susan Greene's book here. I'll add some updates to the post.

  5. I also added some info from Greene's book on dyes and color to post #3 on Dark Ground Chintzes.

  6. Never mind why I am still here commenting. This quilt, last I knew, was not identified in the QI as having anything to do with the 18th century but I wager most of the prints are 1750-1800 and some earlier and some may be Indian and French, that's for others to argue about. 2015.19. It has a Long Island provenance and is a beauty altho the image is unimpressive. Some details in Wearable Prints. Tell your friends. EARLY PRINTS! Rare.