Original Quilt

December, 2019

Original Quilt

Unidentified Maker

Circa 1870-1890
Made in United States
Ardis and Robert James Collection

This quilt is one of three on display in "New Views: Shapeshifters" in which animals are a primary design element. This maker didn’t have just one way to represent animals and plants but drew from a deep toolbox of techniques. In the center is the most unusual—a tufted plush wool scene of a dog barking at a hissing snake in a tree, while a bird perches calmly on a higher limb. Lower in the quilt, velvety gray swans glide amongst lotus blossoms, appearing almost ghostly in their neutral flatness. And in the upper register are three-dimensional flowers made from rusched or otherwise-manipulated fabric or ribbon. The details of each register are filled-in with embroidery to add more realism while decorative stitches also serve as embellishment to frame the registers.

This original design was worked in four vertical registers of green, gold, cream, red, black and plum cottons and wools. 

Made of wool, this quilt shows fraying and deterioration, likely caused by wool moths. In addition to storing our quilts in a climate controlled facility to prevent additional damage, our Collections team monitors insect activity throughout our building. If you have a collection of textiles at home, we encourage you to deter damage from tests by keeping storage areas clean with frequent vacuuming, by making sure items are clean when placed in storage and by maintaining proper temperature and humidity. Inspect your storage area regularly so you can discover activity early and take corrective action. The major insects that attack textiles are webbing clothes moths and carpet beetles. These insects are especially attracted to wool, silk, hair and feathers.

Click here for more information about how we care for our collection as well as tips for at-home care.