Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reconciliation Quilt Heads to NYC

If you are in New York City this summer, be sure to stop by the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library to see "Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War," which opens April 5. While the exhibition will make stops around the country during the next couple of years, for its New York debut, the show features a little something special from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum collection.

Reconciliation Quilt, Lucinda Ward Honstain, made in Brooklyn, NY,
dated 1867, 97 x 84.5 inches. IQSCM 2001.011.0001.

That's right -- our beloved Reconciliation Quilt will be on display this summer.

In honor of the show's grand opening, we asked IQSCM Curator of Collections Carolyn Ducey five questions about this quilt to explain why the Reconciliation Quilt is so important.

What makes this quilt so special?
It's special on a number of different levels. First, its historic importance recognizing the nation's need to reconcile its differences after the Civil War. And as a personal history of the maker's life. It's also important because of the quality of the workmanship and artistic detail... It's an extremely important representation of American folk art.

What's something that might surprise people about this quilt?
You often have this impression of a quiltmaker quietly working at home on her masterpiece with children playing around her feet -- a romanticized view of her life. However, research revealed Lucinda Ward Honstain had an unhappy marriage that brought a lot of unwanted negative attention to the maker, her husband and her family. There were a lot of skeletons in the closet.

How did it get it's name?
From the block that shows Jefferson Davis reconciling with his daughter. Again, that was a misconception -- that they were separated, because of their political views. In actuality she was a young woman attending school in New York while her father was in prison. She was probably too young to have that strong of political views. They did meet up in New York after he was released from prison, but it wasn't technically a reconciliation. We learned that by reading his letters as they've been published. The letters proved he and his daughter were close and communicated while they were separated.

What is the most compelling block in the quilt?
The block with the African American figure standing in front of a man on horseback stating "Master I am Free." It's particularly interesting, because slaves were freed in New York in the 1830s, so she really was making a statement about slavery and the state of the nation as a whole.

What's something you uncovered while you were studying the quilt itself?
If you look at the vertical column on the right side of the quilt, there are fabrics that are not used in any other part of the quilt. Though the sashing is the same, it looks like that last column was added later, which throws off the balance of the center block. Maybe she needed a wider quilt for her bed. We don't know.

"Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War" will be on display April 4 - Aug. 24.

For more information, visit:
Google Art Project
New-York Historical Society Museum & Library
Quilt of the Month - January 2014
Quilts in Common: Around the Globe and Across the Centuries
World Quilts: The American Story

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