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"Sacret Bibel" Quilt Top
Susan Arrowood (dates unknown)

Location: Possibly West Chester, Pennsylvania, United States

Date: 1875–1895

Materials: Cotton, silk, wool, and ink, with cotton embroidery

Dimensions: 88 1/2 × 72"

Credit: Gift of the Amicus Foundation, Inc., and Evelyn and Leonard Lauder

Accession Number: 1986.20.1

Photo credit: Schecter Lee

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Description

The Susan Arrowood who signed this unusual bedcover is believed to have lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania, at the end of the nineteenth century, but she has proved difficult to locate in either census or church records of the period. The scenes on this quilt top appear to have their origins in the Bible, although some may also represent activities at a church attended by the maker. Crudely written legends identify many of the scenes, and although the figures may at first appear to have been cut out identically like paper dolls, many have been individualized with slightly different dresses and hairstyles. This bedcover has been compared with the two quilts created by the masterful late-nineteenth-century African American quiltmaker Harriet Powers. All three quilts rely, in part, on the Bible for inspiration and include appliquéd scenes as well as figures that are more symbolic than individualized. There was a strong appliqué tradition among many African groups, and these quilts may have been influenced, even if indirectly, by that cultural history. Although anecdotal information has linked Susan Arrowood to the African American community, there is no direct evidence for any such connection.

This bedcover has been compared with the two quilts created by the masterful late-nineteenth-century African American quiltmaker Harriet Powers. All three quilts rely, in part, on the Bible for inspiration and include appliquéd scenes as well as figures that are more symbolic than individualized. There was a strong appliqué tradition among many African groups, and these quilts may have been influenced, even if indirectly, by that cultural history. Although anecdotal information has linked Susan Arrowood to the African American community, there is no direct evidence for any such connection.

Elizabeth V. Warren, "Sacret Bibel Quilt Top," in Stacy C. Hollander, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 359.


"Sacret Bibel" Quilt Top
Date: 1875–1895
Artist:
Dimensions: 88 1/2 × 72"
Materials: Cotton, silk, wool, and ink, with cotton embroidery
Credit Line: Gift of the Amicus Foundation, Inc., and Evelyn and Leonard Lauder
Place/Region: United States, Possibly West Chester
Description: Hand and machine-sewn, no quilting. Backing turned over top at top and bottom of quilt, two sides turned in towards one another and machine stitched on top.
Accession Number: 1986.20.1
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