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Bed quilt, silk embroidery

1600-1630
Origin: Asia, India, Bengal
OL: 106" OW: 88"
Plain-woven white cotton embroidered with yellow silk through interlining of plain-woven white cotton and thin cotton batting. Plain-woven linen backing.
Gift of Mrs. Cora Ginsburg
Acc. No. 1987-551
Bed quilt, worked with chain stitch and French knots, quilted in vermiculate pattern using backstitches. At the center are concentric circles surrounded by rectangular border bands. Quarter-round within each of four inner corners. The design features human figures, winged mermaids, fantastic animals and birds, and scrolling vines and flowers. The embroidery is worked with natural yellow tussah silk on cotton through a coarse cotton backing with a very thin cotton batting. Outer backing fabric has a hand-written label sewn to the corner: "This Quilt belonged to Catherine Colepepper afterwards Lady Fairfax & matches with the cushions."
Label:Embroidered and Quilted Counterpane
Bengal, India, 1600-1625
Cotton with silk embroidery
Gift of Cora Ginsburg, 1987-551
Although the pale natural yellow silk embroidery of this example is much worn, the design nevertheless reveals exotic creatures and a hunting scene in which men riding elephants spear their prey. The British East India Company began trading directly with India in 1600, and luxury textiles reached England and colonial American soon after. Indian quilts such as this had an immense influence on Anglo-American taste, and early in the eighteenth century, it became fashionable in England to embroider with yellow silk in imitation of Indian exports.
A cloth label sewn to the back reads, "This Quilt belonged to Catherine Colepepper afterwards Lady Fairfax & matched with the Cushions." The Fairfax family owned the vast tract of land in Virginia known as the "northern neck." Although there is no evidence this quilt was ever in Virginia, Fairfax family members who came here could have known about the quilt or owned a similar one. Matching embroidered cushions, probably similar to those exhibited in the cases at the far right, are now lost.
The quilt has cotton face and backing textiles with a very thin filling or batting of cotton fibers. The layers are held together with embroidery and quilting using tussah silk, which is naturally yellow in color and thus was not dyed.
Provenance:Said to have belonged to "Catherine Colepepper afterwards Lady Fairfax." Although the quilt was not used in Virginia, the family had connections in America. According to research by Registrar Margie Gill in 1975, the following is known about the Fairfax-Culpeper family: "In 1688 King James II confirmed the title to the Northern Neck [of Virginia] to Lord Culpeper, who had the same rights to the Northern Neck as the King did to the rest of Virginia....When Culpeper died in 1689 the title to the Northern Neck was vested in his wife, Margarette, with daughter Catherine as heiress. Catherine married the fifth Lord Fairfax. By 1719 the title fell to Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, their son. Thomas visited Virginia in 1735 and returned in 1751. He built Greenway Court in the Shenandoah Valley where he died in 1782....The N[orthern] N[eck] comprised the whole region between the Potomac and the Rappahannock [Rivers], including the Shenandoah Valley." (Memo to Graham Hood, November 5, 1975.)
Inscription(s):"This Quilt belonged to Catherine Colepepper afterwards Lady Fairfax & matches with the cushions." Sewn to backing.