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Bedcover

The flowering tree design derives from the Indian palampores that were made for export to the American and European market and were often made into whole cloth bedcovers. It is constructed from over 150 pieces of English block- and roller-printed chintz.

Made by Mary Firth, American (Salem County, New Jersey)

Geography:
Probably made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1825-1830

Medium:
Cotton plain weave with block- and roller-printed chintz appliqué

Dimensions:
10 × 10 feet (304.8 × 304.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1962-44-1

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Lewis Benson, 1962

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Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu

    The Indo-European flowering tree motif was one of the most popular and enduring textile designs of the seventeenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, inspiring both seventeenth-century English crewelwork embroidery and printed textiles such as the large block-printed cotton panels known as palampores, which were produced to order in India for the European market. Although the initial inspiration for their design derived from early Persian manuscripts, they ultimately incorporated Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, and European motifs. By the end of the first half of the seventeenth century, textiles had become a staple product of East India Company trade, with Indian cotton painters freely adapting designs sent out from Europe for them to copy. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, palampores were used as bedcovers, bed and window hangings, and wall hangings set into paneled walls. By the mid- eighteenth century, English and French cotton printers were producing fabrics in the Indian style.

    This bedcover was made by Mary Firth in the style of an Indian palampore. The flowering tree is constructed from over 150 pieces of English block- and roller-printed chintz from the first quarter of the nineteenth century that were appliquéd to a white cotton background. Indian chintz had been used for appliqués as early as 1708, as documented by a dated coverlet at Levens Hall in Westmorland, England. The revival of interest in chintz appliqué, often referred to as "broderie perse," was stimulated by the production of Indian-style chintz in England and France during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

    Most of the block-printed textiles in this bedcover were produced at the Bannister Hall printworks in northwestern England, near Preston, Lancashire, from designs commissioned by Richard Ovey of Covent Garden, the leading London merchant for furniture prints from 1790 to 1831. Merchants such as Ovey initiated changing fashions in textile designs and retailed these fabrics through their own London shops and through provincial and overseas agents. The designs can be precisely dated from the original pattern books that survive. The design for the tree trunk surrounded by woodland plants, for example, part of which is used in this bedcover, is dated July 1800, and was probably produced to serve the sort of function it fulfills here. The repeat is very large and was most likely printed as a panel in imitation of an Indian palampore, although no complete panels have been found. Designs with game birds and trees were also produced at Bannister Hall as well as by other printers in many variations between 1814 and 1816, and remained popular for ten to fifteen years. The palm tree and pheasant motif seen here, first printed at Bannister Hall in 1815, is one of the most engaging of these designs and appears in many American chintz appliqué quilts and bedcovers of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Later variations that were both roller and block printed were produced during the 1820s. The floral chintz surrounding the main panel was most likely produced as a border fabric to be used on bed hangings and coverings.

    A similar broderie perse bedcover incorporating many of the same textiles as well as a border of the identical fabric found in the pieced outer border of the Hewson bedcover was made by Mrs. Benjamin Mumford of Newport, Rhode Island (now in the Detroit Historical Museum). The Firths and Mumfords were both Quaker families who settled in Salem County, New Jersey, in the seventeenth century, with Mumfords also settling in Rhode Island. Dilys Blum, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 12.

  • PublicationThe Fine Art of Textiles

    The flowering tree is constructed from over 150 pieces of English block- and roller-printed chintz. Most of the former were produced at the Bannister Hall near Preston, Lancashire, from designs commissioned by Richard Ovey of Covent Garden, the leading London merchant for furniture prints from 1790 to 1831. Mary Firth was a member of a Quaker family form Salem County, New Jersey. Dilys E. Blum, from The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), p. 94.

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