Monday, September 18, 2023

Sylvia Queen's Second Quilt


Yesterday we looked at Sylvia Queen's Garden of Eden quilt in the Johnson County Museum in Overland Park, Kansas and a reference to that quilt at an Ohio fair in 1860.
Barbara Brackman's MATERIAL CULTURE: Sylvia Queen and the Garden of Eden Quilt

But the quilt described may not be that quilt in the Kansas museum because Sylvia is credited with a similar quilt in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

Doris Bowman, long-time textile curator there (since 1959!) attributed this quilt to Sylvia Queen in her 1991 catalog of the collection The Smithsonian Treasury: American Quilts.

The similarities between the two quilts are remarkable. Here we
have Eve in a silk dress---an undergarment?--- before the fall.

Stuffed grapes and scalloped binding. Identical quilting.

Centers differ but the four vignettes of the Biblical tale are similar, although the Smithsonian's are depicted in larger size inside the border.

Adam is shown in typical mid-19th century silhouette in both,
notably looking as if he might be African-American. Did Sylvia want
to imply that Black & white races were descended from the Garden's inhabitants?

How Doris Bowman linked the two quilts is unknown but linked they are.

The Smithsonian's quilt has a more conventional white cotton background.

The Smithsonian's example was donated by Dorothy Carter Diffey Bledsoe (1899-1987) who was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas but spent much of her life as a newspaper writer and bureaucrat's wife in Washington D.C. She must have inherited the quilt. The attribution indicates that her grandmother Laura Doty Diffey (1852-1924), born in Ohio, was lucky enough to find it at a church bazaar in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1900. Is it signed or labeled with Queen's name in some fashion?

Details are similar or identical but the overall design differs in the pair.
The quilt found in Arkansas has a center featuring what we might call a solar system.
(Laura may have actually found that quilt in Ohio...we shall look at that point as we add more posts.)

The Kansas quilt has four florals, reworked in the Smithsonian's as subsidiary patterns.

"Who is Silvia? What is she?" asked Shakespeare.

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