Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Butterfly: Panel #19

Panel 19
Butterfly in a scalloped cartouche

Watercolor of a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly by
Maria Martin Bachman 1796-1863.
Collection of the Charleston Museum

This unusual panel pictures a swallowtail butterfly or moth in a frame of florals and fine curved lines with smaller butterflies in the scallops.

Center of a quilt in the Spartanburg (S.C.) County Museum of History

Quilt from the Boatwright family, Ridge Springs, South Carolina.
Collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

She seems to have moved the secondary butterflies out a bit.

We got to see the Boatwright quilt at the recent MESDA conference where there was much discussion about just what this strange feathery plant is. No consensus except "Maybe some kind of water plant."

Merikay has four examples of quilts with the butterfly panel #19 in the database---all from the American South.

Jeffrey Evans & Associates, a Virginia auction place, sold this
unquilted spread in 2016.

From the description:
"69" x 90" without fringe. Two pieces total. Together with one cotton bolster cover with similar appliqued chintz. Applique first quarter 19th century, foundation first quarter 20th century."

Detail of the bolster cover

The butterfly or moth panel (#19) is one of the rarer examples of chintz panels found in quilts. 

Attributed to a member of the Alexander family of Charlotte, North Carolina,
Collection of the Hezekiah Alexander House,  #78.107

We like to have a picture of the uncut fabric to see how the panel was repeated but this is the most information we have about #19.

Ms. Alexander framed the center with octagonal panel #35.

Pieced quilt with Panel #19 in the center. 
Collection of the Spartanburg County Museum of History.

What Can We Learn From This Panel?

Panel #3

The Boatwright quilt at MESDA also includes one of the most common of panels, the Trophy of Arms (#3), which Merikay has recorded only in American quilts. It would seem that the Butterfly panel is also found only in American quilts. Does this mean the panels were printed in America?

Highly unlikely---American printers did not produce prints of this quality in the first decades of the 19th century. Englishwoman Margaret Hunter Hall was disappointed in the American prints she saw in 1827 in Lowell, Massachusetts. 
"As yet they have neither skill nor capital to attempt anything fine or expensive, and the finest cottons they make at Lowell (printed ones I mean) are not beyond the value of fifteen pence a yard."
What is more likely is that the butterfly panel featuring an exotic insect was printed in England "for the Brazilian market," British textile jargon for the Western Hemisphere. Many of these export designs were never sold in Britain, which is why no English or Irish quiltmakers had access to them. A small shipment of the yardage may have arrived in Charleston, Savannah, Wilmington, North Carolina or some other port. Did most of it wind up in South America or the Caribbean islands?

See more about the Brazilian and the Portuguese market at this post.


  1. I am absolutely in love with this new blog! I just wish you could find a manufacturer that would print every one you post! It is interesting that this panel appears most often in the south. I believe the spread with the fringe must have been influenced by someone in New England with that shape!

  2. That butterfly/moth panel is stunning. I am learning so much from this new blog. Thanks!

  3. In the Hall of Mirrors (last q. 17th c.) at Versailles there is a decorative relief of the "Trophy of Arms" -- perhaps the source for the textile designed much later?

  4. I agree with Wendy. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have these type of panels and borders available to quilters today? Thanks so much for this new blog.

  5. The butterfly / moth panel vaguely reminds me of this chair panel. Has anyone ever seen it used in a quilt? https://www.pinterest.com/pin/80150068353579621/