The Baltimore Museum of Art has granted me permission to show their photographs of the splendid Baltimore album quilt exhibit. Here’s the entrance to the textiles gallery, where they were shown. The quilts are “revisited” because it was the BMA’s major, traveling exhibit of Baltimore album quilts in the 1980s that first brought them to the attention of the public. This sparked interest and motivated stitchers to revive this style of quilt-making and textile art.
On the left below is the same quilt, with one of the other quilts. Obviously they had been set up and lighted for the professional photographer, and were displayed differently for the public.
When I saw the show, the magnificent beauty below was hanging in the middle, where the quilt on the left is shown above. I am required by the terms of the permission granted me to include the attributions.
Designer: Attributed to Mary Simon (nee Heidenroder), German. 1810 – 1893 Album Quilt: Baltimore Album Brides Presentation Quilt, 1849 Cotton, silk velvet, ink
104 x 105-1/2 in. (264.3 x 268.1 cm.)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Friends of the American Wing Fund BMA 1976.93
I think I’ve got the attributions below correct. This quilt is a lively example of the red-and-green color scheme that so dominated Baltimore album quilts. The border actually appeared to be reverse appliqué. Astonishing!
|Maker: Mary Patten Everist, American, dates unknown
ALBUM QUILT, c. 1847-1850
Cotton, cotton braid, wool or cotton embroidery threads
97-3/4 x 97-1/8 in. (248.4 x 246.8 cm)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Dr. William Rush Dunton, Jr. BMA 1940.159
And here’s the third one. It includes cut-work, pictorial representations that are
not floral motifs, such as the hunting scene which presumably had some significance for the recipient,
|possibly Mary Evans, American
Album Quilt: Baltimore Album Brides Presentation Quilt. c. 1852
Cotton, velvet, silk: wool and silk embroider, threads
103 x 104 in. (261.6 x 264.1 cm)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Queens and Belle Stewart, Buffalo Gap. South Dakota BMA 1977.30
Here is a detail from that quilt. It is a square representing the Baltimore Washington Monument. This motif showed up often in Baltimore album quilts.
In addition to these quilts, the BMA was showing some quilt squares that had never been used to make a quilt. Please go to my Flickr site to see enlargements of these squares.
While this is a relatively simple design, note the fine strips of fabric making the lattice. There’s technical skill here.
ALBUM QUILT SQUARE: Large Flowers in Red Pot with Green Lattice Center, c. 1850 Cotton
17 1/2″ x 17 1/2″
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sister John de Matha Bersch, SSND, Baltimore BMA 1972.44.5 Photography By: Mitro Hood
This is an extraordinarily complex and technically very difficult work. The whitish flower on the lower right has five, that’s 5, layers of appliqué.
ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Floral Bouquet, c. 1850
17 1 /2 ” x 17 1/2″
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Olive C. Slater BMA 1946.44b
Photography By: Mitro Hood
This square features ruched flowers; that is, strips of fabric were gathered, then attached to the ground fabric to form petal shapes, in layers. Note also the inked drawing with what may be Baltimore’s Washington Monument again.
|Maker: Elizabeth R. Ellis, American, dates unknown
ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Memorial to Susannah Riley, 1847
Cotton, silk or cotton embroidery threads, ink
17-1/2 x 17-3/4 in. (44.4 x 45.1 cm.); Mount: 24-3/4 x 24-3/4 x 2-1/2 in. (62.9 x 62.9 x 6.4 cm.)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert V. Brawley, Winston-Salem, North Carolina BMA 1981.150 Photography By: Mitro Hood
Here’s a detail of a ruched flower. Isn’t it amazing?
The next square shows the use of fine ink writing that often appeared on these quilts. Much of it seems to have been done by the same “professional” calligrapher.
ALBUM QUILT SQUARE: “Memorial to Susanna[h] Riley”, 1847
Cotton, cotton embroidery threads, ink
18 x 17 3/4 in.
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert V. Brawley, Winston-Salem, North Carolina BMA 1981.151 Photography By: Mitro Hood
Another extraordinary square, this one designed by the woman to whom the design of the first quilt I showed you above is attributed. Imagine cutting and stitching all those thin strips of fabric that make up the basket. And notice the ways in which the print fabrics are used, such as for the bird’s wings. Some details were ink-drawn.
Designer: Attributed to Mary Simon (nee Heidenroder),German, 1810 – 1893
ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Basket with Bible, c. 1850
Cotton, silk, silk velvet, ink
17 1/2″ x 17 1/2″
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Olive C. Slater BMA 1946.44m
Photography By: Mitro Hood
To tell you the truth, I am disappointed in these photographs. They do not capture the dimensionality of these works, and you can’t even see the quilting. They appear flat, more like prints on paper than layered textiles. My own photographs, while inferior in some ways, at least allow you to see more of the textures. I’m going to take the risk and show you some of them. Some are overly bright, like this one, because the originals were shot in dim light, from a distance, and this is the best editing I could do.
The following shot shows examples of the three most common features of Baltimore album quilts: red-and-green motifs, cut-work motifs, and pictorial (usually floral) motifs. It is a detail from the Mary Patten Everist quilt above.
The next three close-ups are of the third quilt I showed you. To see this intricate work actually up close is breathtaking. Notice how much the red basket of flowers, the basket in particular, resembles the square with the Bible above. See the quilting? Extremely fine!
In my photograph, you can see the print of this red fabric and the decorative quilting. That cut-work circle appears to have been cut from a single piece of cloth. How on earth could that have been done?
Again, you can see here the prints and the quilting. The rings below were cut out individually and appliquéd so as to appear interlocking.
The next two details are from the first quilt shown above, the one whose design is attributed to Mary Simon. They look overly bright because my original photograph, shot from a distance in dim light, was too dark to make out the details. I wanted you to be able to see the intricacy of this design. Notice the alternating red and tan strips of fabric making the container for the floral arrangement.
Here’s a close-up of the central motif of this beautifully designed (by Mary Simon?) Bride’s Presentation Quilt.
This delightful detail is from the Mary Evans quilt, the one with the Washington Monument square shown earlier. Her quilt is not as sophisticated a design as Mary Simon’s; but the motifs are charming, it is technically a marvel, and the craftsmanship is superb.
Okay. I’m done. Let’s hope I don’t get caught. At least, since you are reading this, I haven’t been caught yet.
Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these Baltimore album quilts.