Historic York County York, PA United States 717.502.1281
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$ 9,500

Outstanding Cigar Silk Pieceworktable Cover with Unusually Long Ribbon Fringe

Origin United States
Period 19th Century
W. 62.5 in; H. 62.5 in;
W. 158.75 cm; H. 158.75 cm;
Creation Date 1880-1910.

Silk bands like these were used to wrap bunches of cigars. Beginning in the Victorian period, women saved them in order that they may be pieced together into decorative pillow tops, table covers, and quilts, usually in some variation of the log cabin quilt pattern. Most examples in all forms are various shades of yellow and cheddar. Sometimes black and white stripes are found along with the yellow, along with light pastel blue, pink, and green and, on occasion, crimson red.

Table cover-sized works are much more rare than their pillow-cover-sized counterparts and are invariably more interesting. Entire quilts are rarer still, but almost never encountered.

The ribbon fringe is very unusual. Each band used in its construction was embellished with a small eyelet at the end, covered in yellow silk crocheted needlework, which acted as a weight to keep the “fringe” in place. The differences in shades of yellow is simply due to hundreds of thousands of cigar-makers buying ribbon from many sources. This is part of what makes the textile more interesting. But the best folk art feature is the off-balanced, abstract interpretation of the pineapple log cabin quilt pattern, which is more reminiscent of modern art than that of the late 19th century. Note the center panel of stacked linear bars, canted at an angle with evident purpose, and the surrounding combination of triangles and trapezoids. This has tremendous folk qualities and when combined with the strong presentation of color and overall design makes for great visual impact. In addition, the piecework was executed with the highest quality of workmanship that is seen in such examples, using tight, turkey-track style decorative stitchery, executed with silk floss.

Across the examples I have owned, this is one of the very best. Some may argue that it is the best. It's the largest with fringe extended and the long ribbon fringe is so unusual. I've never seen fringe this long and usually it would be some manner of silk floss, not ribbon.

In the 19th century there were more than 80,000 cigar makers in the United States alone. It was the "age of the cigar."

Grand Opera was a Sideman, Lockman & Co. cigar made in San Francisco at 212 Battery Street. La Flor de Alfonso was a York, Pennsylvania cigar, made by John K. Pfaltzgraff & Co., founded 1881. I don't know if Alfonso is the same or another brand, but the time period is correct for the Pfaltzgraff brand. Upmann was founded in Havanna, Cuba in the 1840's and moved sometime during the mid-20th century in the face of the long embargo. This is one of the most well-known brands today and you'll find their products at nearly every location that sells quality cigars. There are other obvious Cuban brands among the bands, with Cuban-specific names, but many of the names were not researchable because the words are so generic and there were so many makers. In Connecticut we grew a lot of tobacco used in wrappers (that is, the tobacco leaves used to wrap the outside of the cigars). I don't see any CT names here and I know some of them from having handled many cigar silk piecework textiles.

The textile has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. And acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

There is almost no breakdown in the bands used in the piecework, which is highly unusual. A few of the segments of ribbon fringe were broken or absent. We removed sections from the corners and used them as replacements. Breaks were stitched down during the mounting process.

Dimensions (inches):
frame: 62.5" x 62.5",
quilt: 51" x 51"

Primary Color: yellow
Earliest Date: 1880
Latest Date: 1910
For Sale Status: Available
Price $9,500
Styles / Movements Folk Art
Incollect Reference Number 113499
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