It is thought that this extraordinary room-size appliqued and embroidered textile is a floor cover, but its pristine condition belies its use in this function. Because of its complex design and masterful execution, it has been likened to the embroidered carpet made by Zeruah Higley Guernsey in Castleton, Vermont. But it is also related to a small number of appliqued floor and bed coverings made in Maine from about 1845 until about 1870. These textiles are characterized by whimsical pictorial elements in a block set surrounded by a border. This example is further elaborated by a central medallion with a tapestry-inspired scene of two trees, with birds in the branches, tall grasses, and a blue rabbit. Two opposing inside corners are further distinguished by dense branching appliques, and a wreathlike motif is centered on four sides. Rather than the rigid square or rectangular block seen in the other examples, the repeated flower motifs are separated by arch-shaped leafy branches, lending a dynamism to the conventionalized overall pattern.
Applique gained favor as a technique for small table and hearth rugs about 1840. As in quiltmaking, the applique technique involves cutting elements from one fabric and stitching them onto a different fabric foundation. Early designs often feature an urn with sprawling flowers, but the pieces from Maine show a particular sense of freedom in their compositions. Because the shapes are cut out rather than pieced, there is great pictorial flexibility, evident in this monumental textile.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Appliqued Carpet," in American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 522.