Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Visit to Dear Jane

The Jane Stickle Quilt, known in the world of quilting as Dear Jane after the title of Brenda Papadakis's book, is exhibited by the Bennington Museum in Vermont for 6 weeks every year from the end of August until mid-October. Earlier this year an announcement was made that this year the exhibition would include new information on the quilt's maker, Jane Stickle. What better excuse for a trip to Vermont in autumn than to learn more about Jane Stickle. So on Columbus Day weekend Megan and Christian and I set off for a glorious weekend in Vermont.

The Bennington Museum's quarterly journal Walloomsack Review (Volume 11 Summer 2013) includes an article by quilt historian Pam Weeks with research on the Blakley and Stickle families mostly derived from Census and probate records. Jane's father Erastus Blakley was a relatively wealthy farmer based on the inventory in his probate records. He died when Jane was 13 and left half his estate to his son Erastus, a quarter to Jane, and the remaining quarter divided between two other daughters. He specified the money should be used to educate Erastus and Jane, implying Jane was especially worthy of education. Jane and her husband Walter had no children, but many nieces and nephews. Seven nephews served in the Union Army during the Civil War. The quilt won the $2 prize (said to be equal to $40 today) for the Best Patched Quilt at the Bennington County Fair in September 1863. 

 After Pam Week's article was published, Museum curator Jamie Franklin found this important article in the October 1, 1863 edition of the Bennington Banner reporting on the recent County Fair where Jane Stickle's quilt was first displayed.  Sadly the article is difficult to read, but the relevant lines begin  in the middle of the third paragraph: Mrs J.B. Smith of Manchester, Mrs Taft and Mrs Stickles presented each a very extra bed quilt. Mrs Stickles is an invalid lady, having been for a long time confined to her bed, but her ambition to do something to kill the time induced her to piece the quilt. It contains many thousand different pieces of cloth, no two of which are exactly alike. Upon one corner is marked in plain letters, "made in the war of 1863." The startling new fact that Jane was an invalid goes a long way to explaining the puzzling decline of Jane and Walter. Why in 1860, Jane's husband and mother lived with her brother Erastus, but Jane is listed as living by herself. In 1870, they were back living together at a farm that was valued at $6,000 with personal property of $1,500. But in 1880, they had lost their farm and were wards of the town according to the records of the Overseer of the Poor. Walter is noted as having rheumatism, but there is no mention of Jane's disability. They continued to live on public charity until their deaths in 1883 and 1896.

The quilt's colours remain vibrant . . .

. . . and the seams match perfectly!
Pam Week's research allowed a peek at the unseen back of the quilt which is two panels made up from a linen bed sheet with tiny embroidered initials of S.B. for Jane's mother Sarah (Sally) Blakley. Jane's father's probate inventory includes two sets of linen sheets. Examining the quilt, she believes the quilt was pieced and quilted as a straight sided square, then strips of calico (UK)/muslin (US) were sewn to the top edges overlapping the extra wadding and backing allowance, then each wedge curve was cut individually and bound with a straight grain strip. 

The quilt and the watercolour were donated to the Bennington Museum by Jane's niece Sarah Blakley Seymour Bump (1868-1950), daughter of Jane's brother Erastus, probably in 1938 or 1939, according to the undated records held by the Museum. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

5. Alsace Loves Quilts Too

The wonders of Alsace never cease to amaze. First we find it to be the birthplace of Gregorian Chant, and now we discover they are taking the credit as the birthplace of quilting. Only the Michelin guidebook goes that far in its claims, but the birthplace of Amish quilting is certainly in Alsace. The Zwingli branch of the Protestant Reformation created the Anabaptist movement which rejected infant baptism in favour of adult baptism after a confession of faith, and they also embraced the principles of non-violence. Controversial beliefs always led to persecution during this chaotic period, and many Anabaptists moved into the Val d'Argent of the central Vosges where they were welcomed by the local land owner. In 1693, in the town of Ste-Marie-aux-Mines, Swiss preacher Jacob Amman gathered believers into a new sect who wished to live by their own interpretation of Biblical principles, and they were referred to as the Amish. A century later, the Amish began moving to Pennsylvania when the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars which followed threatened their non-violence principles with forced conscription.

For nearly twenty years the town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines has held a quilt show — billed in some places as Europe's largest quilt show — with exhibitions spread across venues in public and private spaces across the town and in two neighbouring villages in the valley. Each venue featured quilts from different countries, different teachers, different competitions, or different collections. This is a small selection of interesting quilts.

An Exhibition from the States was the collection from Ohio's Quilt National 2011
Mary Beth Frezon

Cross My Heart
Judy Martin
Werekata moon
Pamela Fitzsimmons

Pat Budge

The wonderful French quilting magazine Quiltmania sponsored a collection of antique chintz quilts from the States (POOS Collection belonging to Kay Triplett). They are mostly dated from the first half of the 19th century and are in superb condition.

The highlight of the day was an extraordinary collection of Amish quilts from the collection of Frenchman Jacques Légeret who lived in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana Amish communities, wrote down their stories for several books, and bought the quilts he was offered.

The local quilters of Val d'Argent filled a whole church with beautiful work. Much of it was on the theme A Journey to the Heart of the Forest, most appropriate to their forested valley. I could not catch the names of all the quilters who contributed to the display.

Feuilles Mortes
Huguette Buecher
Jolie Découverte
Evelyne Latrouche

Andrée Louzy

Mélange et Déclinaison
Les Amies du Mardi

Au Coeur de la Foret
Marie Claire Meyer

Bernina sponsored quilts from the members of the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA)
If  Leaves Were Blue
Priscilla Kibbee

Aurifil Threads sponsored an exhibition of work featuring architecture
NYC la Nuit

Monique Gilbert, a  Belgian quilt teacher, exhibited the works of her students who were asked to interpret the work of artist Paul Van Hoeydonck in a project for her Crossroads Group

Anny Celis

Behind Prison Bars
Monique Houtevelts

Circles in Space
Martine Vervack

U.K. quilters appeared in a variety of group exhibitions

Susan Hayes

Whirligigs 2
Jenny Rolfe
Squiffy Sampler
Philippa Naylor

Contemporary Expressions, a U.K. group from the Midlands, exhibited a marvelous collection of small wallhangings that were inspired by Kew Gardens
Reach for the Sun
Ann Beech

Susan Hayes

Deadly Beauty
Kath Gunn

The invited European "Guest Country" for this year's show was Denmark
The War of the Worlds
Else Mikkelsen

Roseville Album
Anne Hejl

Faroe Island I & II
Karin Østergaard

Chaos and Order, Passage of Time
Charlotte Yde

And finally there was the shopping! 

4. The Greater Germany continued in Metz

In between our concert weekends, we looked for nearby places to visit, and Metz, the leading city of Lorraine in Carolingian times popped up on Bob's music radar when he chanced on a mention that Gregorian chant was invented in Metz . . . which by the way, and emphasized in every guidebook, is pronounced "Mess" in French. My German pronunciation is adequate thanks to four years with Fräulein Phillip in high school. My French pronunciation is dismal, but I am totally lost when every place name seems to be spelled in German, but pronounced in French.

So how could we not leave Alsace for two days to see the birthplace of Gregorian chant.
When Alsace was passed to Germany in the 1870s parts of Lorraine went with it, including the city of Metz. The location of Metz would have made the city the border gateway to the New Germany, so a monumental railway station was constructed during the first decade of the 20th century . . .

. . . heavily decorated with Teutonic symbolism. And built at the same time, Haut-Koenigsburg was being reconstructed.

The city is lovely, lying on the Moselle River where this folly, the Temple Neuf, was built in 1904 undoubtedly to emulate the site of Notre Dame in Paris. Greater Germany would have to wait a few decades to capture the real thing, if only for a brief time.

The beautifully landscaped promenade along the Moselle was a lovely walk on a hot summer day. 

Metz's most famous attraction is the Cathedral of St Etienne, begun in the early 13th century, within the walls of a 10th-11th century basilica style church. Construction continued for 300 years. 

The cathedral is noted for the towering height of its nave, the third highest in France . .  .

. . . and its curtain walls that are nearly all glass. I was too overwhelmed by the richness of the glass on such a sunny day to take a decent photograph, so Bob took this one of the 14th century Rose Window by Hermann von Münster.  

Those flying buttresses of Gothic engineering created a new sort of spiritual space very different from the  small windows and fortress like walls of the Romanesque churches of the previous century. Metz has the most window surface of any medieval cathedral.

The windows span the centuries with the original 14th and 16th century glass, but includes modern windows too.  These are two of the three windows designed by Chagall in the 1950s and 1960s . . .

. . . depicting Old Testament stories.

The Cathedral's crypt was a bit of a disappointment since the earlier Romanesque features had been buried under the Gothic rebuilding. But it did have this wonderful sculpture of the Graoully, the local dragon terrorizing the people of Metz in the 1st century. The legend is that St Peter sent Clement to convert the people of Metz, who agreed if he would take care of their dragon problem. Clement was a successful slayer, Metz became a Christian city, and Clement became the Bishop of Metz and a saint too.

Walking to the museum, we passed under a modern day Graoully which still serves as Metz's mascot.
The Musée de la Cour d'Or is a fantastic museum that chronicles the history of Metz beginning with the archaeological remains of a Roman bath beneath the building. This exquisite ivory carved casket depicts Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious being crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Stephen IV in 813.

Metz also has one of the oldest Christian churches in Europe.  St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains was built by the Romans in the late 4th century, probably as a gymnasium. Fifty years later, Attila and the Huns attacked and burned the town . . .

. . . but the walls with their distinctive Roman brick course between stone and mortar courses were left standing, and used to build a convent chapel in 615. The chapel was enlarged and modified with an early chancel by Bishop Chrodegang of Metz . . .  

. . . with a Romanesque nave . . .

. . . and with Gothic vaulting over the next 900 years.  

Nearby stands another unique building, a Templar's Chapel dated to the early 13th century. The Templars, the Pope's Army always ready for another Crusade in the Holy Land was established in 1133 in Metz, and became a command centre for troops leaving for the Second Crusade in 1145. The chapel was probably built around 1200 . . .

. . . the Templars were dissolved in 1312, and the chapel was passed to other  religious orders  who would have been responsible for the frescoes that decorate the interior. Metz was a Free City of the Holy Roman Empire until 1552 when Henri II annexed the city to his expanding kingdom of France. When Henri fortified the city, St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains became an arsenal and the Templars Chapel became a gunpowder store. The restoration of the two buildings were part of the early 20th century plan to emphasize the German history of the region.

And what about Gregorian Chant, the foundation of Western music? It has been known for a long time that Gregory the Great, Pope from 540 to 604, had nothing to do with Gregorian Chant although it was named after him as an honorific. Recent scholarship has indicated that Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz from c.740 to 766, had a great deal to do with establishing Gregorian Chant. Until the 8th century there was no core liturgical rite, but rather regional rites were in use across Christian practice. When Pope Stephen II travelled to Merovingian Gaul in the 750s, he said mass using his preferred Roman Rite chant. King Pepin liked  it so much, he abolished the local Gallic chant, a move not popular in Gaul. When Charlemagne became king, he asked Bishop Chrodegang of Metz to promote the new Roman Rite. What Chrodegang did was join the Roman and Gallic Rites into a new system that included eight modes and neumes to indicate melody. The new Rite was originally named Messin, to honor  Chrodegang of Metz.
In 748, Bishop Chrodegang founded an Abbey in Gorze a few miles outside of Metz. The 13th century parish church is all that remains of the Abbey where Chrodegang introduced his Messin Chant.

The Last Judgement
Perhaps he is not a fan of the new chanting?