While documenting quilts at The History Center in Ithaca, NY, our study team was surprised by a bright, cheerful quilt. It seemed modern. But, indeed it was old (1840-1857). The colors and fabrics made us curious.
The maker, Anna Marie Louise Le Pine Treman (1794-1857), lived as a girl on the Caribbean island of Saint Dominique with her French father, who disappeared during a general massacre. Disguised as an “orange” girl by family servants, she escaped on a merchant ship bound for New York. There, she was unable to find relatives. She ended up living with the ship Captain’s family. Later Louise was recognized at Alexander Hamilton’s funeral and reunited with her grandmother and brother.
I supposed that Louise’s early life in Saint Dominique led her to choose bright colors for her quilt, speculating that the sky was dominant in her life on the island and at sea. When making the study quilt, I mostly used the brightest reproduction fabrics I could find, attempting to be true to Louise’s choices of colors. I wondered how Louise found those bright fabrics in the 1800s, and if my impression of color from the era was distorted. I wondered if the bright quilt she made while living in central New York State was a refuge from the area’s gray winters, as mine became. In my design, I tried to capture Louise’s liveliness and sense of a big moving sky and to use many stars as she did.