Friday, 26 June 2009

A beautiful 19th century toile depiction of Mothers, Grandmothers and children at home.

I obtained this very tatty but also very beautiful early 19th century French toile panel today. I think it most likely started out life as a large bed curtain around about 1825, but has been turned into a quilt at a later date, probably about 1850-70, with the addition of a madder dyed floral cotton layer attached to the reverse (this is very similar to the cotton layers I found inside a French quilt I researched in earlier posts), some interesting striped and floral patches, and some extra cotton batting between the original toile's linen lining and the new floral cotton.

I really like this toile, what I call 'domestic toile' as opposed to the more common pastoral or neo-classical toiles, with scenes from inside the home, imbued with refreshing simplicity and homeliness. The detail is beautiful, a young girl hushes her little brother and his dog when she realises that Grandmother has nodded off listening to the story she has been reading, a young Mother takes time-out from her pile of mending to talk to her son, and another Mother shares the task of wool-winding with her son, he doesn't look best pleased with the task, but somebody has to help!

These are obviously idealised images, rather than historical records, but they can still shed light on some aspects of family life, relationships and domestic activities within the home during the early 1800s. Small special maternal moments captured forever!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all Dads everywhere!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Deconstructing a Very Damaged 19th Century French Quilt. Part 6, nearly finished now!

Please click on each photo for supersize shots to see the detail.

I think I will let these layers speak for themselves, it is nearly finished, just the separation of the inner panels of ancient quilt, the analysis of the fabrics and a tentative timeline, and that will be it! Thanks for joining me on this journey, The final post should be Quite Interesting!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Two unusual French Toiles

I collected a large batch of late beautiful 18th century and early 19th century toiles this weekend, here are two fine examples of the latter.
(Please click on each photo for supersize pictures)

The first piece is an beautiful example of a documented Toile de Jouy, but it has a different name in 2 of my books, firstly, it is called L'Oiseleur or The Bird Catcher dated 1811 in the book 'Toile de Jouy, Printed French Textiles in the Classic French Style' by Riffel, Rouart & Walter, but in 'Antique French Textiles for Designers' by June K Laval, it is called L'Abreuvoir or The Watering Place, and dated 1810. Interesting! A very fine textile, designed by Jouy's most celebrated artist, Jean-Baptiste Huet. I adore the expressions on the faces of the animals.

Now to the second piece, I have never seen this design or colour before, I was told it was The Labours of Hercules, but I am not so sure, there are only 2 vingettes, but 12 Labours. Of course, there may be more toile with the remaining labours printed on it that I haven't seen, but these 2 scenes don't seem to fit the descriptions of The Labours. It looks like a Toile de Nantes at first glance because of the layout of the design, but it is by an artist whose work I haven't seen before, the pictures are quite large, and beautifully designed, very classical, yet I don't think it is a Toile de Jouy, whose classical Toiles are very distinctive, as in the first example. I will have to do some research. Finally, the initials FP on the rock may be the artists or engraver's initials, so a clue to follow up!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Deconstructing a Very Damaged 19th Century French Quilt. Part 5

Well, I have removed almost all the layers of fabric that I can, and was expecting this to be the last post about the quilt, but it isn't to be. It has revealed a lot of information, but posed almost as many questions!
I was expecting a single mass of sheeps fleece wadding, but it turns out to be a patchwork of pieces, almost completely felted over time, pieced together into a small rectangle with linen or hemp thread. Most of the panels are edged with the remains of the indigo woven fabric discovered in part 4, which now turns out to be a colourful indigo, white, pink, yellow and maybe purple ikat woven flamme fabric, either cotton or linen, I'm not too sure. This could be quite an early fabric! If you click on each photo for the supersized pics, you may be able to see that it looks as if the ikat remains - a real shame so little remains - seem to be over-lapping the red and blue striped fabric at their edges where front and back have been sewn together, leading me to believe that this must surely be the earliest layer, with the ikat as the next layer, followed by the R&S, then the C&J. I am now of the opinion that the red and black printed floral twil was the reverese for the R&S, but outlasted the rest of the layers beacuse of its durability as a fabric. Please see the way some of the colour has bled from into the fleece from the stitchmarks, directly onto the fleece. The greenish grey floral was the penultimate layer, finally to be patched with the scruffy, faded cream cretonne.

A lot of food for thought there, 2 ideas spring to mind at this stage, please let me know what you think, and your ideas about its story!
Firstly, it could be a quilt that has been passed on through the same family as an heirloom, being re-worked and re-covered by different generations. Perhaps it started its journey in the late 1700s, early 1800s as evidenced by the woven fabrics in the centre. This would have been in use for quite some time, then, when the ikat had virtually worn away, was discarded, and eventually salvaged by being cut into panels and re-covered with 'modern, fashionable' printed cotton (R&S) on 1 side, with the heavy twill weave print for the other side sometime around the mid 1800s. A bit later, maybe around 1860-80, it was re-covered in the second printed cotton, the C&J layer, but the twill was still in good enough condition to stay in place. When the C&J wore out, the greenish grey floral was added around 1890-1900. Finally, the scruffy cream panel was applied over the worn floral as a large patch around 1920-30.
Secondly, following a similar timeline, it could have been made by a reasonably well-off woman, a Farmer's wife, for example, as a large quilt and used until the fabric wore out, then gifted to a poorer relative, or perhaps a servant, who cut it down into useable panels, sewed them into a small quilt shape and recovered it. It was then kept and rennovated, until it was eventually discarded and ended up in the abondoned rag store in the 1950s, which is where it was discovered by the woman I bought it from.
Of course, these are just theories and ideas, but the 'story' of this little quilt begs to told in some way. We shall never really know, but it is fun to try to 'deduce' a cultural context for it!

Now that I have removed most of the fabric, a few last things need to be looked at for the next post, I need to strip out some of the red & blue woven stripe, and see if it is the central, or earliest layer, and I shall try out a burn test on the woven striped pabrics to try to ascertain what type of fabric they are made from, wool, cotton, linen etc. Your comments and ideas would be greatly appreciated!

PS. I have just looked this post to check spelling etc, and noticed something I hadn't spotted before when i checked the photos. Please look at the second to last supersize pic, does it look to you as if there is a piece of different woven fabric UNDERNEATH the red & blue layer, I had assumed the R&B to be the earliest, maybe it isn't! I shall have to investigate...