White Embroidered Counterpane by Verlinda Alexander Porter (Mrs. Reuben Grigsby)
Origin: America, Virginia, Orange County
OH 101" x OW 88 3/4" (256.5 x 225.4 cm)
White cotton embroidery thread on a white pattern-woven cotton ground
Gift of Francis W. and Grigsby C. Peabody in Memory of their mother, Virginia Grigsby Chandler Peabody Shattuck
Acc. No. 1984.609.1
This is a white cotton rectangular bedcover with rounded corners worked in white cotton embroidery threads. The ground consists of three loom widths (each approximately 28" wide) of pattern-woven white cotton, joined in two vertical butt-edge seams at selvages. The ground is embroidered in a variety of motifs in white cotton.
At center top are the initials and inscription worked in cross stitch:
"IR/ AP + HP FR + AP + AP + EG + WP +/ MC + GP + NP + BP + SP + SP + EG/
RC PP/ IB/
In the center of the bedcover is a large vase of flowers, worked in a variety of stitches including turkey work and blanket stitch. Surrounding the vase are four cornucopias, one pointing toward each corner, with grapes, blooms, and vines sprouting from each. Six elaborately worked leaves--each different--separate the cornucopias, one at top and bottom, and two on each side.
An outer border consisting of seven-, eight-, and nine-pointed stars worked in bullion stitches in a zig-zag repeat is at sides and bottom of bed covering. An inner deep border consists of loose, airy foliage sprays made up of long stems worked in coral knot stitches and leaves in satin stitches joined with a curling, twining vine to a cluster of grapes with three large leaves.
Stitches: blanket, bouillon knot, chain, coral knot, cross, laid, running, Turkey, satin, spider web, stem, whipped backstitch
Weave structure: huckaback
Label:Verlinda Alexander Porter's embroidered counterpane serves as a decorative bedcovering as well as a family record. Worked in cross stitches at the top center of the cover are twenty sets of family initials, the Virginia county in which Verlinda was born, "Orange," the date of July 4, 1815, and the signature line, "B.ERLINDA.ALEXANDER.PORTER." Although names, initials, and other kinds of inscriptions were often stitched on early-nineteenth-century bedcovers, the completeness of the Porter data included on this example is unusual.
Verlinda worked the grape clusters, scrolling fronds, flower-filled center urn, cornucopias and leaf motifs with dexterity in a pleasing variety of stitches. Some, such as the turkey work of the urn's foot and bullion knots in the star border, contribute to the variety of textures rendered overall.
Verlinda Alexander Porter (1793-1845) was the daughter of Abner Porter (1743-1814) and his wife, Hannah Ingram Porter (b. 1750) of Orange County, Virginia. Her embroidered bedcover may have been made in anticipation of her future marriage. In 1817 she married her first cousin Reuben Grigsby (1780-1863) of Rockbridge County, Virginia. They moved into their fine new home, Hickory Hill, in 1824 where eleven children were born to them. One of Verlinda's granddaughters remembered her grandmother as "social arbiter of Rockbridge" and a "grande Dame." Verlinda died in 1846 leaving behind her husband and ten of her eleven children. Years after her death, a niece recalled her handwork. She wrote to her Uncle Reuben in 1859, "It is my purpose to imitate my dear departed Aunt [Verlinda]...and furnish the house with domestic manufacture."
The embroidered counterpane, along with a woven cotton coverlet, descended in the family to the children of a direct double descendant of the maker who presented both bedcovers to Colonial Williamsburg.
Provenance:Provenance of Counterpane:
The embroidered counterpane along with a pattern-woven cotton coverlet descended in the maker's family until presented to Colonial Williamsburg in memory of Virginia Grigsby Chandler Peabody Shattuck, a direct double descendant of the maker.
A typed label which accompanies this embroidered counterpane and a related woven coverlet reads: "Two Bed Spreads./ The flax was grown and the spreads were/ woven on my great-grandfather Grigsby's/ plantation in Virginia. One of these is/ a plain bedspread, the other is elaborately/ embroidered in white and is dated, with/ my great-grandmother's name,/ Verlinda Alexander Porter - 1815".
History of maker:
Verlinda Alexander Porter (1793-1845) was the daughter of Abner Porter (1743-1814) and his wife, Hannah Ingram Porter (b. 1750) of Orange County, Virginia. In 1817 she married her first cousin Reuben Grigsby (1780-1863) of Rockbridge County, Virginia. They moved into their new home, Hickory Hill, in 1824, where eleven children were born to them: Jacqueline A.; Lucian P.; Abner Joseph; George Hugh Blair; Hannah Francis; Elizabeth Jane; Mary Ann; Lucy Maria; Reubenia; Emma; and Benjamin. Verlinda Alexander Porter Grigsby died in 1845 and is buried in the Falling Springs Presbyterian Cemetery in Rockbridge County.
"Verlinda" and "Berlinda" appear to have been used interchangeably in family records; "Verlinda" is the spelling that appears on her tombstone.