Thursday, November 19, 2015

A French Plaid Silk Taffeta Boutis Quilt, c. 1760s+

How many more wonderful textile related words can you squeeze into this title? Plaid. Silk. Taffeta. Boutis. Quilt. Each on its own denotes something special, but when taken together? It is beyond the ordinary, everyday.

This cheerful French silk taffeta, most likely intended for a dress, was in circulation by 1764 --it  appears in Selling Silks: A Merchant’s Sample Book by Leslie Ellis Miller. There is at least one extant example of a gown made from the same or very similar plaid, sold at Whitaker Auction.

 However, at some point -- probably a few decades later than the silk production date—it is transformed into a French quilt (c.1800?). The quilting is of a type known as boutis. Boutis work is a Provençal word meaning 'stuffing', describing the manner in which two layers of fabric are quilted together with stuffing sandwiched between sections of the design, creating a raised effect. [1] This example is charming, and includes hearts at the corners. You can see bits of the cotton wadding or batting used to “puff” out the quilt, typical of boutis work.

Taffeta is a very thin silk. The batting used to quilt the boutis has pushed the silk, causing strain and resulting in damage. However, the design of the hand stitching also holds the silk together. Although damaged due to folds and wear, with tears to the boutis and shattered silk, it nonetheless is valuable as a study piece.

Formerly from collection

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