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Bed Covering
Embroiderer:Attributed to Elizabeth Swan , American, 1741 - 1817
Hand-stitched embroidery; crewel wool on plain-woven linen; ink
Primary Dimensions (height x width): 91 1/4 x 87in. (231.8 x 221cm)
Credit Line: Gift of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Gallery Copy: A fashionably dressed couple, at the center of this completely intact crewel bedcover, stand beneath a tree wrapped by a sinuous vine, laden with bunches of grapes. Five birds perch in the branches, each the same design but stitched and colored in different patterns (repetition of the same template sometimes leaves one foot clutching midair). This is a Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve at the center. Pairs of butterflies, nesting birds, flowering bushes, sprigs, and a smaller tree create a visual reminder of the divine injunction, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The figures of Adam and Eve are seen with some frequency on eighteenth century samplers, but rarely on bedcovers.
Description: Bed covering hand-stitched with crewel, or two-ply worsted wool, on a plain-woven linen ground. The wool on the bed covering is in many bright colors, including dark, medium and light blue, dark medium and light pink, red, blue-green, dark and medium yellow, and cream. The bed covering is rectangular, oriented vertically, with concentric borders around the center of the bed covering. The center has a large tree with oversize grape vines, leaves and birds in the branches. A man and a woman are standing on the ground below the tree. The woman, on the left, wears a pink striped dress and a white apron; she holds a fan. The man, on the right, wears a blue waistcoat and holds a tricorn hat and a staff in his hands. This is surrounded by four large and six small sprays of flowers, leaves, berries, or fruit. The cener of the bed covering is outlined with a three sided border of an undulating vines and fruit. The sides of the border extend up to meet the top edge of the bed covering. Surrounding this is a wide border containing large and small sprays of flowers, fruit, and leaves; the wide border also contains several birds and small butterflies. Finally, the sides and bottom of the bed covering have a narrow border of an undulating dark blue vine with tapered, curved lobes on each side. The bed covering is constructed of three panels of plain-woven linen that were hand-stitched together prior to embroidery; the panels are 32 1/2, 32 1/4, and 21 inches respectively. A fourth panel of linen is sewn to the top edge of the bed covering; it is about 12 1/4 inches tall and pieced together at the top right corner. The designs were hand-drawn with black ink prior to embroidery. The left edge of the bed covering is the selvedge. The top, bottom and right edge of the bed covering has a 3/16-inch double-turned hem. The principal stitches on the bedcovering are outline and satin; it also includes encoaching satin, flat, roumanian (oriental), herringbone, boullion and buttonhole. Condition: The bed covering has three holes, on opposite sides of the quilt, near the center border; each hole is patched with plain-woven linen sewn to the back of the ground. A fourth smaller hole in the tree branches is repaired in the same way. The crewel wool on the narrow border at the left, bottom and right sides of the bed covering has diappeared in several sections; some of this crewel wool may be a later addition. A spray of tulips at the bottom center and a spray of pomegranates at the right center of the bed covering is repaired using darning stitches through the ground. The ground is yellowed and has many small dark stains.
Historical Notes: This bedspread was made by Elizabeth Swan in about 1761, before her marriage to Daniel Brewster in 1764.
Inscription: "E S Brewster/ Roxbury" is hand-written in black ink in the top left corner of the bed covering.
Object Number: 1964.35.0
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