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Quilt, Star of Bethlehem pattern variation

Ellen Morton Littlejohn (1826–1899)

Maker:
Margaret Morton Bibb (ca. 1832–ca. 1900–1910)
Date:
ca. 1837–50
Geography:
South, Russelville, ("The Knob"), Kentucky, United States
Culture:
American
Medium:
Silk and cotton
Dimensions:
88 1/4 x 87 1/8 in. (224.2 x 221.3 cm)
Classification:
Textiles
Credit Line:
Gift of Roger Morton and Dr. Paul C. Morton, 1962
Accession Number:
62.144
  • Description

    Multicolored and patterned silks make up the very finely pieced star blocks. These alternate with unpieced blocks to a pink-and-green changeable silk. The unpieced blocks have been intricately quilted and stuffed, each with a different plant or flower. Carded cotton was used for the stuffed areas and the batting. The edge of the quilt is bound with lavender silk, and the backing is of solid pink glazed cotton.
    Two sisters, both enslaved African-Americans who worked for Marmaduke Beckwith Morton, made this silk quilt, which combines beautiful workmanship and sophisticated design. It originally adorned one of the beds in Morton’s family seat, known as "The Knob". The quilt is composed of pieced blocks in the "Star of Bethlehem" pattern. In the interstices between the blocks, the plain silk areas are decorated with quilted floral and fern patterns, each one different. The quiltmakers, known as "Aunt Ellen" and "Aunt Margaret", were born at "The Knob"; their mother, "Aunt Eve" was the "mammy" to twelve Morton children, including Marmaduke, who then eventually owned her children. In Morton family remembrances, Ellen was known as a good seamstress, while her younger sister Margaret was the family cook for many years. Even after slavery was abolished, Ellen continued to work at "The Knob", and cared for Marmaduke Morton up until his death in 1887. The quilt’s green and pink changeable silk ground fabric may have been woven at the nearby Shaker Community at South Union, Kentucky, which was known for producing silks like this.

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
13884:2

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