About This Artwork

Designed and executed by Sarah Ann Wilson
American, active c. 1854

Album Quilt, 1854

Appliquéd, pieced and embroidered quilt; dyed, undyed and printed cotton plain weave fabrics and cotton and silk velvet fabric; cotton embroidery threads
217.1 x 255.8 cm (85 1/2 x 100 3/4 in.)
Inscription: Sarah Ann Wilson Aug 1854

Restricted gift of Mrs. David W. Grainger, 1999.509

Made before the Civil War, as indicated by the date inscribed in a square in the bottom row, this quilt depicts African American figures who seem to be a family. The figures are sensitively portrayed, with appliquéd and embroidered brown fabric comprising their faces and hands. The familial narrative is reinforced by the hand-and-heart motif in the bottom right corner. The specificity of the portrayal and the similarity of the figures to those in another quilt (depicted here) suggest that these figures may represent the maker's own family. Although historians know little about Wilson, she may have been a free black woman living in New York.

Making Memories: Quilts as Souvenirs, October 20, 2017-April 1, 2018

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Making Memories: Quilts as Souvenirs, Galleries 57-59, October 20, 2017-April 1, 2018

The Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 265, A Century of Collecting: African American Art in The Art Institute of Chicago, January 31–May 19, 2003

The Art Institute of Chicago, Elizabeth F. Cheney and Agnes Allerton Textile Galleries, An International Collection of Appliquéd, Embroidered and Pieced Bedcoverings, February 28–May 28, 2001

Museum of the American Quilter's Society, Paducah, Kentucky, Antique Quilts from the Shelly Zegart Collection, April 4-July 18, 1998

International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas, America Collects Quilts, November 3-6, 1994

Heart of Country, Nashville, Tennessee, A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words: Pictorial Imagery in American Quilts, February, 1993

Publication History

America's Glorious Quilts, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, New York, 1987, page 26.

Quilt Engagement Calendar, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1987, #41.

Quilt Masterpieces by Susanna Pfeffer, Park Lane, New York, 1990, page 56-57.

The Quilt Encyclopedia Illustrated by Carter Houck, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1991, page 12.

American Hurrah Calendar, Longmeadow Press, New York, September, 1992.

Interpretive Resources

View mobile website