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Quilt, silk cord quilting

ca. 1600
Origin: Mediterranean Europe, Greek Islands, or Goa
96 1/2" x 107 1/2"
Yellow silk reversing to light blue silk
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2005-94
Rectangular quilt of yellow silk reversing to light blue, with dense symmetrical design worked in cord quilting with soft cotton filling. Quilting done in running stitch utilizing yellow silk. Center design has large circle enclosing a water scene with a large sailing ship, fish, and two men on islands (or clouds). Surrounding the center is a wide border with running animals (probably dogs) and foliage. Four circles with stylized profile heads in the four quadrants of the wide circular border. Quarters around central circle have chase scene with running deer, dogs, and man wearing helmet and carrying sword, mounted on horseback. Three rectangular outer borders; two narrow guilloche bands framing wider border with hunters and animals, including wild boar. Double-headed eagles in 4 corners. Edges are turned in and stitched with running stitches.
Possibly Mediterranean area, ca. 1600
Silk, cotton cords
This unusual design includes a centered sailing ship on wavy quilting suggestive of water, fish, two men on cloud-like islands, hunting scenes that include a knight on horseback, and a dog running down a deer. In the outer borders, men costumed in late sixteenth century style attack wild boars.
This quilt is one of a half-dozen similar examples in other collections. Surprisingly, their origin is still unknown. Some aspects of design and materials resemble Indian quilts made in Goa, yet dye analysis indicates that they are probably not Indian. Although the quilts may have been influenced by Indian imports, they were probably made somewhere in the Mediterranean. Experts have suggested Marseilles in southern France, Italy, or the Aegean Island of Chios. Given the dissimilar areas where they have been found and their design similarities, the quilts were probably made for export.
The reversible quilts are done entirely in a variation of cord quilting, a technique in which heavy cords or strings are used as fillings. Here, the scale is bolder than usual for the period, with fat rolls of cotton in the design areas. There is no filling between the areas of stuffing.
Provenance:The quilt was sold at auction in the sale of "Islamic and Indian Costume and Textiles," Christie's South Kensington, April 12, 2000. The consigner was a gentleman from the south of France near Marseilles.