THE FINEST NEEDLEWORK EMBROIDERED WOOL QUILT KNOWN, PAUL FAMILY, CIRCA EARLY 19TH CENTURY FROM THE 18TH CENTURY COMMUNITY OF SOUTH SOLON, MAINE. We believe this to be the finest embroidered wool quilt in existence. This fabulous folk art discovery was recently uncovered from a trunk in an attic in Solon, Maine which has been in the Paul family since its creation. William Paul and Catherine Rice Paul moved to South Solon, Maine in 1812 from Greenwich, Massachusetts and according to family history this quilt was made “on the farm” with home grown wool. The quilt has descended through the Paul family to the present consignor. According to family history it is believed that the man and woman in the wreath are William Paul and Catherine Rice Paul. The girl and a boy in frames are purported to be two of the eleven children produced by William and Catherine Rice Paul. The four portraits of young women which are shown in ovals with flower vine border are purported to the daughters of William and Catherine Rice Paul. The following description was prepared by Lynne Z. Bassett who is considered to be the foremost expert on early American quilts. Paul Family Quilt South Solon, Maine, c. 1830-1835. The Paul family embroidered wool quilt from South Solon, Maine, is an example of the best in American folk art. The pieced pattern of eight-pointed medallions of alternating dark brown and green wool, sashed with orange ovals and circles, is possibly unique. The maker probably drafted it herself by drawing intersecting circles using a saucer or other small plate as a template. The quilt is bordered with a strip of orange wool, and edged with black wool cut in scallops. The fabrics used on the face of the quilt are all plain-woven wool, probably domestically produced as stated by the family history. Evidence of the fabrics’ reuse (and the maker’s frugality) can be seen in the seaming of many pieces to make them large enough to fit in the pattern. The outer medallions of the dark brown wool are embroidered with soldiers wearing bicorne hats seated (though legless) on horses; the soldiers bear flags of different designs. The inner medallions are embroidered with profile portraits, believed to be family members, including one man, four young women with curled hairstyles, one old woman in a cap, and two children (a boy and a girl) pictured below a large butterfly. (As a traditional symbol of resurrection, the butterfly may indicate that these two children were deceased at the time of the quilt’s making.) Other designs embroidered in the dark brown medallions include a cat sitting on a cushion, a tree filled with turkeys and an owl, bouquets of flowers, an eight-pointed star, a large bird (possibly an osprey) sitting atop a domed building, a leopard, and an animal resembling a llama. The animal designs probably came from a picture book of the period. The scalloped edge of the quilt is embroidered with pinwheel and daisy-like designs. The date of the quilt is indicated by the costume and hairstyles of the people depicted within the medallions. The “sausage” curls of the women’s hairstyles were fashionable in the 1820s and 1830s; the puffed sleeves of the little girl’s dress were fashionable from about 1820 to 1836; her full skirt was fashionable after about 1828; the style of the old woman’s cap and the man’s shirt collar were also fashionable in this period. This evidence suggests a date of about 1830-1835 for the quilt. The embroidery stitches used in these designs include chain stitch, outline stitch, and long-and-short filling stitches. The bodies of the animals and the star are made of tufted yarn, probably done with a cut loop stitch such as was used for yarn-sewn rugs and shag mittens of this period. The women’s curls are made with bullion stitches. The embroidery is done in a combination of cotton and wool yarns. The embroidery was completed prior to the quilt top’s piecing. The maker had not only excellent design sense and drafting abilities, but she was a very talented needlewoman. The quilt, which measures overall 105 inches long by about 106 inches wide, was made with cut-out corners to fit around the foot posts of the bedstead. The cut-outs measure approximately 29 inches in both directions. The backing fabric of the quilt is a coarse, plain-woven, taupe-colored fabric with a cotton warp and a wool weft. It is also seamed together of many pieces of fabric, suggesting that it was recycled from a previous use. The batting is white wool. The quilting is done with worsted yarns in various colors so they blend with the color of the fabric pieces of the quilt top. The edges of the quilt are bound with a narrow strip of bias-cut fabric (brown cotton warp, black worsted weft). The quilt remains in remarkably good condition. It is unfaded and shows only minor damage to the tufted embroidery of the star near the center. The binding is frayed in one area near the center bottom. There are a few scattered very small areas where the embroidery has been mended with red yarn which does not quite match the original color. The backing fabric shows some minor damage from a spill of some sort, and two frayed holes, but this damage does not affect the top. Overall, the condition is excellent. In summary, this quilt is a masterpiece of American textiles. The pieced and embroidered wool quilt form is rare, and this example is particularly appealing, as the unique and interesting design is well executed and graphically exciting. The family history and excellent condition make this quilt a highlight of any collection. CONDITION: This choice textile was obviously always prized by the family and carefully stored which accounts for its remarkable condition. Only one small area in central star with missing thread. Two or three breaks in the backing which do not show through. Generally excellent. A true masterpiece. 9-25564 (30,000-50,000)
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