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"Apotheosis of Franklin & Washington" bed curtain

ca. 1785
Origin: Britain, used in America
OW 45 3/8" X OH 71 1/2". Selvage width of textile about 31". Design repeat about 35 7/8" Textile woven with 52 warps per inch and 44 wefts per inch
Linen and cotton, plate printed
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1959-18
Rectangular bed curtain made from a textile plate-printed in red in a design known as "The Apotheosis of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington." Allegorical scenes show Washington driving the leopard-drawn chariot of America. The seated female figure of America holds a caduseus and a plaque inscribed "AMERICAN/ INDEPEND/ -ANCE/ 1776." The chariot is preceded by 2 heralds wearing feathered headdresses and carrying banners, one of which is inscribed "UNITE OR DIE" on the body of a snake. Battle vignettes appear in the background. At the left of the chariot is a tree with signs reading "STAMP ACT" (shown upside down) and "LIBERTY TREE." Another scene shows Athena guiding Benjamin Franklin and Liberty. A scroll above Franklin's head is inscribed, "WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY." The group faces the temple of Fame, where stand the trumpeting figure of Fame and 2 putti holding a map of America. Block printed border edging is stitched to sides and bottom of the curtain.

Technical information: The textile is printed on linen-warp cotton-weft textile. The top of the curtain has a half-inch-wide tabby linen binding sewn to the back, with stitch marks indicating the original placement of tape loops spaced from 5 1/2" to 5 3/4" apart, originally used for curtain rings. The curtain is constructed from two textile widths, one about 31" wide (selvage width) and the second approximately 15" wide. The panels are sewn with back stitches with 3/16" seam allowances. The tape binding consists of two slightly different designs, originally printed together as a striped textile and cut apart for use as a binding. The raw edges of the curtain were first turned under toward the front of the curtain and covered with the printed binding, which was cut and turned under to an overall width of about 1 3/8".
Label:After the Revolutionary War, English manufacturers lost little time in producing textiles specifically for the American market. Patterns like this one, called the "Apotheosis of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington," would have had little commercial appeal in England. These printed textiles often were made into bed curtains and other household furnishings.

In these allegorical scenes, George Washington drives a leopard-drawn chariot, accompanied by the seated female figure representing America. She holds a plaque inscribed “AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE 1776.” Benjamin Franklin, wearing his trademark fur cap, stands next to the figure of Liberty. The scroll above Franklin’s head reads “WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY.” Nearby, the trumpeting figure of Fame heralds the heroes’ renown.

The figure of George Washington was adapted from a painting by John Trumbull, subsequently engraved in Britain by Valentine Green in 1781. The image of Benjamin Franklin’s head was adapted from a 1777 medallion by Jean Baptiste Nini, after an original drawing by Thomas Walpole. The image was sold as medallions and engravings on paper.
Provenance:Acquired from Avis & Rockwell Gardiner, American Antiques, Stamford, Connecticut.
Inscription(s):See description of printed design, which incorporates inscriptions.