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Marseille: White Corded Quilting

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Quilts84 of 90My collection of Antique Toys, etcRevisiting the Art Quilt
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Posted 7 years ago


(2 items)

These supple, all-white corded and quilted furnishings-from bedcovers to quilted bodices and caps-grew out of the thriving textile traded centered on France's Mediterranean port of Marseilles. During the the seventeenth century, the region's interpretation of quilted needlework became so treasured that it seduced markets throughout Europe and its far-flung colonies.

Broderie de Marseille is a form of three-dimensional textile sculpture using plain white cloth and white cotton cording, deftly manipulated with needle and thread to reveal patterns highlighted by the resulting play of light and shadow on the textile surface. Skillful execution of broderie de Marseille resulted in delicate, refined work that graced the homes an figures of aristocrats and launched an international passion for all-white corded needlework. The quilted works were filled with imagery expressing contemporary values, such as folk legends (Tristan), heraldic devices and royal monograms (on bedcovers), and floral wreaths an fruits symbolizing good fortune and fertility (on wedding quilts). Contemporary versions, today often referred to as "matelasse," are machine made and thus lack the intimate connections to the work represented by the confections of the original needleworkers-almost all of them presumably women.

1. 2006.013.0001
Cap, Woman's; corded quilting, drawn work
Origin unknown 1740-1760
This woman's cap holds intricate drawn work in the floral forms depicted in its two sections.

2. 2008.040.0157 Dillow Collection
Bedcover, corded quilting
Probably Marseilles 1830-50
The composition, execution, and materials of this ceremonial wedding bedcover represent the highest expression of 19th-century all-white broderie de Marseille.

3. Petassoun (Infant lap piece) 2006.028.0013
Berenson Collection
Mediterranean coast, France
Late-18th to mid-19th century
This piece features a square central motif, filled with a grid of lozenges, again suggesting a pomegranate and portending an abundant future for the infant.
Cotton 19 x 19 in


  1. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 4 years ago
    i grew up in a new hampshire town where marseille fabric was machine made in the late 1800s. some were even made by my french canadian ancestors. my family really treasures them.
  2. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 4 years ago
    i meant to say 'marseille quilts', because that's what we called them.

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