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Appliqued Flowering Tree Quilt

ca. 1800
Origin: England
OH 115 1/2"; OW 107 1/2"
Cotton; linen quilting thread
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1955-171
Quilt with central appliqued flowering tree design composed of motifs cut from several different cotton textiles printed in madder colors with pencilled blue. A variety of fruit, flowers, and leaves grow from the branches, and birds perch among them. Climbing on oak tree branches are two boys, one with a hatful of tiny birds, and the other grasping one bird in his left hand. The central panel is framed by a strip of floral woodblock cotton printed on tan ground. The outer border frame consists of a wide band of the same print, half on white ground and half on tan. The bedcover is quilted with linen running stitches through cotton batting and white cotton backing. Cotton tape binds the edges.
Label:Flowering tree designs (sometimes called "tree of life") became very popular for embellishing bed covers during the eighteenth century. The maker of this bed quilt cleverly combined motifs cut from several different printed textiles, which she appliquéd, or stitched, to the ground to create the central flowering tree panel. The trees themselves are cut from an English block-printed panel, made to imitate expensive Indian imported panels about 1780 (see Colonial Williamsburg acc. no. 1952-474).

Almost hidden in the foliage are figures of two boys climbing the tree, cut from a different textile originally printed in England at the Old Ford factory of Robert Jones in the 1760s.
(The Royal Ontario Museum owns an original textile in the same pattern, acc. # 934.4.625.)