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Botanical Album Quilt

This quilt is a variation of the traditional Baltimore album quilt in which blocks were appliquéd to suggest pages from one of the pictorial, remembrance, or autograph albums that were popular in mid-nineteenth century America. Here, where the inspiration was a botanical publication, skilled needlework is combined with the contemporary interest in flower painting and botanical subjects. As in other Baltimore album quilts, many of the flowers are three-dimensional constructions of layers of English and French block- and roller-printed textiles, with baskets "woven" from strips of fabric.

Made by Cinthia Arsworth, American

Geography:
Made in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1840-45

Medium:
Cotton plain weave with appliqués of plain, block- and roller-printed cotton, cotton chintz, and cotton compound weave; padded appliqué; silk and wool embroidery in chain, overcast, seed, straight, cross, knotted, and plush stitches; channel quilting

Dimensions:
93 x 93 inches (236.2 x 236.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1942-4-1

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Percival Armitage, 1942

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Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu

    A thorough knowledge of needlework, a skill in a painting or drawing technique such as flower painting, and an insight into a science such as botany were thought to be necessary accomplishments for the well-educated young woman during the mid-nineteenth century. As early as 1798 the English naturalist Erasmus Darwin had recommended in his, Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools, Private Families, and Public Seminaries, that young women study botany to become better companions and conversationalists. He suggested that they study Curtis's Botanical Magazine, an English periodical with botanically correct hand-colored engravings that began publication in 1787 and was widely distributed in the United States during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A knowledge of flowers was also thought to place a woman more securely in her domestic role, for as the editor of The Lady's Token noted, "A woman never appears more truly in her sphere, than when she divides her time between her domestic avocations and the culture of flowers."1 Flower painting formed part of the curriculum in female academies and seminaries, and instructional handbooks such as Thomas Addison Richards's, The American Artist; or Young Ladies' Instructor, in the Art of Flower Painting, in Watercolors (Baltimore, 1838), were also available. Other books of the period that discussed the supposed symbolism of flowers were a popular form of entertainment.

    This quilt is a variation of the traditional Baltimore album quilt in which blocks were appliquéd to suggest pages from one of the pictorial, remembrance, or autograph albums that were popular in mid-nineteenth century America. Here, where the inspiration was a botanical publication, skilled needlework is combined with the comtemporary interest in flower painting and botanical subjects. As in other Baltimore album quilts, many of the flowers are three-dimensional constructions of layers of English and French block- and roller-printed textiles, with baskets "woven" from strips of fabric. The likely source for may of the floral appliqués in this quilt was illustrations found in magazines such as Curtis's or in contemporary handbooks of flowers and plants, for an effort was made to depict botanically correct flowers rather than imaginative conceptions. The over-flowing baskets, urns, and cornucopias have parallels in the theorem paintings on velvet that were most popular in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The colored paper sketches that served as models for many of the painted compositions and from which stencils were cut could have served equally well as inspiration for the quilt's appliqués. Dilys Blum, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 20.

    1. Colesworth Pinckney, ed., The Lady's Token; or Gift of Friendship (Nashua, N.H., 1848), p. 44.

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