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Bed cover

Bed cover

  • Place of origin:

    Exeter (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1690-1720 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Quilted patchwork of silks and velvets with embroidery in metal threads, lined with silk, satin, wadded with wool

  • Museum number:

    T.201-1984

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In 'piecing' or 'patchwork', small pieces of fabric are sewn together to produce a decorative design. Geometric shapes produce some of the most striking examples, and the work is often embellished with appliqué and embroidery.

Quilting is a method of stitching layers of material together. The layers are most commonly divided as follows:

Quilt top: The decorative layer of the quilt. If the top is pieced, it is known as a 'patchwork quilt'.

Wadding/batting: A layer of cotton, wool, polyester, silk or other material, which adds warmth and dimension to the quilt.

Reverse: The bottom layer, usually made from one piece of fabric.

Hand-quilting is done on a frame using needles called 'betweens'. The stitches are executed with one hand; the other hand is kept underneath the quilt to feel for the needle. Small, uniform stitches (usually a 'running stitch') are taken through the three layers to form a decorative design. This bed cover has been quilted with a technique now known as 'stitch in the ditch': quilting along the seams of the patchwork to enhance the pieced design.

According to the donor, this quilt was made for Bishop's Court, a medieval manor house in Devon once used by the Bishops of Exeter and later purchased by the Earl of Bedford. In 1651, the house was bought by Peter Beavis, son of a wealthy Exeter merchant. The rampant lion is thought to be from the Bedford arms, and its inclusion at the head of this quilt seems deliberately to affiliate the Beavis family with the former owners.

Physical description

Quilted patchwork bed cover made from a wide variety of silk velvets, taffetas, tissues and metal brocades. At the lower edge of the quilt there are split sides for ease of fitting around the post ends of a bed. The design of the quilt is near-symmetrical, with the exception of one particularly early black and pink silk that has been used only in the proper right lower corner of the cover. This silk is thought to date from the 1670s. The maker has used 5 different colours of plain silk velvet (red, green, blue, black, gold) and 1 patterned velvet (deep red/orange and black). At the head of the quilt is a Coat of Arms in silver gilt thread on a blue velvet ground, showing a rampant lion. The maker has also used a wide variety of complex weave textiles, including a green and silver thread bizarre silk dominated by a silver ground, and a blue silk with brocaded pomegranates and flowers in silver and silver gilt thread, both thought to date from the 1690s. There are yellow, pink, blue and green taffetas, and pink and yellow tissues. A brown tissue has been used extensively on the right and left borders. There is also a late 17th century yellow silk which is possibly Chinese, and a silver gilt tissue with brocaded flowers which seems to be of Persian design. Wadded with wool and lined with a green and cream striped silk, and a cream silk satin. Most of the textiles date to before 1700.

Place of Origin

Exeter (possibly, made)

Date

1690-1720 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Quilted patchwork of silks and velvets with embroidery in metal threads, lined with silk, satin, wadded with wool

Dimensions

Height: 230 cm maximum, Width: 216.5 cm maximum, Height: 197 cm area intended for the top, Width: 158 cm area intended for the top, Length: 92 in, Width: 84 in, Weight: 7.66 kg

Object history note

According to the oral history that accompanied this quilt when it was acquired in 1984, it was made for a property now known as Bishop's Court: a medieval palace in Devon once used by the Bishops of Exeter and later purchased by the Earl of Bedford. In 1651 the house was bought by Peter Beavis, son of a wealthy Exeter merchant.

The bed cover would probably have been made professionally, and would have been an expensive commission. The arms at the head of the quilt suggest a strong connection to a family of high status, possibly the Bedfords. The arms would have been created by a heraldic embroiderer, and could have been made specifically for this quilt or recycled from another object. At this point it was not unusual for a family to declare love for their king or a patron through domestic objects such as this.

Historical context note

In eighteenth century Britain, the bedrooms of the wealthy were used for the display of luxury goods. They were a place where servants entered, family members rested and guests were entertained. Ornamental patchwork bed hangings and quilted bed covers reflected a household's access to a range of fashionable textiles, from colourful imported chintzes to sumptuous silk velvets. Many were bought specially, but householders also recycled textiles from other objects, a common practice given the financial and emotional investment in valuable fabrics.

Beautifully worked bed hangings and bed covers were found in both middle-class and aristocratic households, and could often be more costly than the bed that they dressed. Some were purchased from professional centres of production such as Exeter.

Descriptive line

Quilted patchwork bed cover of silks and velvets with embroidery in metal threads, lined with silk, possibly made in Exeter, 1690-1720

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Sue Prichard, ed. Quilts 1700-2010. London: V&A Publications, 2010, p.172

Labels and date

Bedcover from Bishop's Court
Possibly Exeter
1690-1720

This quilt is said to have been made for Bishop's Court, a medieval palace in Devon once used by the Bishops of Exeter and later purchased by the Earl of Bedford. In 1651 the house was bought by Peter Beavis, son of a wealthy Exeter merchant. The rampant lion, made by a heraldic embroiderer, is from the Bedford arms, and its inclusion at the head of this quilt seems deliberately to affiliate the Beavis family with the former owners.

Silk

V&A: T.201-1984

[Supporting image, with caption:]
Remains of the palace, from a drawing by S. Swete, 1808
Westcountry Studies Library [20th March 2010]

Production Note

Many of the silks date from the late 17th century. It is likely that the bed cover was created not long after this, in the late 17th or early 18th century.

Materials

Silk (textile); Metal thread

Techniques

Quilted; Patchwork; Embroidered; Velvet; Satin

Categories

Interiors; Embroidery; Textiles

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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