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Artist: Maker unknown (United States)

Date: 1800-1850
Medium: Cotton
Overall: 100 × 98in. (254 × 248.9cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Jane B. Sayre Bryant and David E. Bryant in memory of the Sayre Family
Object number: 86.46.130
Label Text
Some of the earliest American and European quilts are whole cloth quilts—those made of large lengths of fabric as opposed to many smaller pieces sewn together (commonly called patchwork). Printing fabric was a laborious process throughout most of the 18th century; block- or copper-printed textiles were expensive to produce and thus were a luxury. Some believe that the popularity of whole cloth quilts in the late 1700s and early 1800s was a result of the fact that quilt makers were reluctant to chop up this valuable commodity. Indeed, to display a large panel of fabric on a bedcover was a sign of status and wealth.

In the late 1700s, mechanized roller-printing revolutionized the textile industry, so while still a valuable material, printed fabrics became more widely available. In this example, the maker uses a brown roller-printed fabric with motifs of columns, vegetation, and baskets of flora to carry the decorative weight of the quilt. Subtle quilting emphasizes the printed patterns, which are drawn from neo-classical sources.