Friday, January 08, 2016

White Coverlet

Some many years ago - late 80s - we were holidaying in Brittany.  We drove to Vannes, a sea-port from which boat trips out to the Ile aux Moines could be taken.  Pottering around the town, I checked out a few antique shops for textiles, specifically lace, looking for a small item for my collection.  There were coifs on sale, but at eye-watering prices.  On a table outside on shop, as part of a general display of cheaper junk, was a folded up textile item, obviously large.  I asked about the best price.  It was astonishingly low.

Single motif, in satin stitch and French knots.

We left it and went down to the harbour to eat lunch.  During lunch I was overtaken by that feeling that one gets sometimes, at least, I do, that I would regret not making the purchase.  Different to that other feeling where you buy something on impulse and live to regret it.  I went back and sealed the deal.  The shopkeeper rolled it up and stuffed it in a white paper carrier-bag for me to take away.  She took a felt tip pen and scrawled the name of the shop on the outside: "Les Brocs des Aristos."  This turned out to be prescient.

We put the item in the car, took our boat-trip, hired bikes and cycled along the low-lying islands.  Later, we drove back to the gite where I unfolded my find.  Even then, I knew it was exceptional.

Over the years since then, I have shown the item to a range of experts and have made some attempts at research myself.  Essentially, this is a coverlet, 90 inches by 90 - so it is huge.  It was made either early in the eighteenth or late in the seventeenth century, almost certainly in a professional embroiderers' workshop.  But where and for whom is something which remains a mystery.  However, it must have been made for someone very wealthy indeed, as the level of workmanship is so very fine and there is so much of it.

There are two layers of fabric, with no wadding between.  The top layer is a twill weave and the lower layer a slightly coarser regular weave linen.  Each of the many, many floral motifs is outlined in two rows of very fine backstitch which create a channel.  Through this channel pieces of cord have been inserted from the back to create a raised outline.  This is typical of corded quilting, but there is no quilting between the motifs - they are placed closely so there is very little empty space, but there is some.

Central device of coverlet.

Over the years, I have found that the piece is almost too astonishing to take in.  It is a thing of wonder, but the level of detail makes it difficult to determine the design as a whole.  But I have now set myself some lines of enquiry and will spend some time gathering the answers.  More about this later.



Susan Smith said...

It's beautiful and hope you find out the story behind it and tell us. Take care.

LizM said...

Yes, truly beautiful. I think going back for it was exactly the right decision.

Mary Lou said...

So beautiful - and in such good shape. Well done. I would love to hear the story of it, as well.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! That is one gorgeous coverlet! Hope you find out more about it.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Yes , it was a golden time to find affordable treasures and this is exceptional !