In 17th century Provence thousands of women were employed in light, airy, professional needlework ateliers to stitch broderie de Marseille, corded or stuffed quilted needlework, sometimes called "trapunto" in America, and "boutis" in France.
The ladies created exquisite pieces of clothing, bed furnishings, wall hangings, household items that were exported throughout Europe and to the American colonies.
By the last quarter of the 17th century the all-white "broderie de Marseille" was in high demand. Articles were ordered by royal houses throughout Europe. Even the middle class had money and taste enough to acquire the fancy white work. By the end of the 1700s the Provencal tradition to make, or have made, a wedding quilt to rest on top of the marriage bed resulted in lavishly stitched confections, filled with symbols of love, femininity, fidelity, fertility, and prosperity as well as motifs of personal significance – the couple’s initials and the wedding date. Often the central motif would be a vase of flowers surrounded by images of abundance and fertility: pomegranates, ripe grapes, melons.
The 17th and 18th centuries were a fertile period for the textile arts of Provence. Professionally stitched broderie de Marseille articles captivated Europe. Royalty advanced quilting by their own acceptance of it as the predominant fashion of the day. The Stuart Rulers, especially James I, Charles I, Mary II, and Anne, fancied and wore elaborate quilted clothes; and Queen Mary herself was a quilter. Marie Antoinette’s elaborate wedding quilt reportedly took 100 women eight years to make.Of all bridal quilts, those known as white work are among the most highly prized by collectors. Introduced in the late 18th century, they became extremely popular before 1830, especially in the South. The central medallions of these elegant textiles were composed of stitched urns of flowers, roped swags, floral wreaths, feathered whorls and cornucopias.
|The majority of the above historical information can be found in the lovely book Quilts of Provence The Art and Craft of French Quiltmaking by Kathryn Berenson, 1996, Henry Holt and Co, New York.|
"No other quilting tradition in the world can take pride in a similar manipulation of the surface height of cloth with needle, thread, and batting – to glorious sculptural effect.” Kathryn Berenson, Quilts of Provence
The term trapunto has come to mean stuffed or corded quilting in America. Stuffed quilting originated over 700 years ago in Sicily and came to be a tremendous industry in southern France 200 years ago.
Today, the French call stuffed or corded quilting “boutis” and they call the pieces that were specifically produced in 17th and 18th century Marseilles ateliers “broderie de Marseille”.
Trapunto heightens the quilted designs through the insertion of extra stuffing, yarn, or cord into the channels and motifs of the quilt design. The raised designs reflect the light and provide shadow on the surface to give the quilt a sculptural effect.
The artists use a 6” long trapunto needle to insert yarn through the backing of the quilt and draw the yarn through the channel or motif. The result is spectacular! All our quilts use one inch batting and the yarn is drawn through the channel between the batting and the bottom layer of fabric. The acrylic yarn is soft but does not stretch as it is inserted into the quilt.
Raised quilting reaches a peak of beauty in the all-white, whole cloth quilt. Elaborate designs and sculptural effect can best be seen and appreciated on all-white fabric. The white quilting thread is almost invisible on the background and so the light and shadow of the raised areas emphasize the design. The art of corded and stuffed white-work is gloriously expressed in the Provencal Tradition that called for creation of an all-white wedding quilt to grace the top of the marriage bed.
Detail from Floral Vanne