Object Record

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Object ID Number SAM 1956.117
Object Name Coverlet
Artist Vanness, James
Title Fancy Weave Coverlet for Cornelia Miller
Date 1849
Culture American
Credit line Museum Aquisition Fund
Exhibit Label James Van Ness lived in Palmyra, New York, on the banks of the Erie Canal. The canal was among the first signs of the Industrial Revolution that would soon sweep the country. The American identity was rapidly changing, something that James Van Ness could see both outside his window and within his own weavers’ shop.
Van Ness learned the trade of weaving from his father. In America’s early days, professional weavers created intricate and beautiful patterns that couldn’t be easily reproduced at home. People paid them to make special items, like coverlets.
Van Ness and his fellow weavers had their lives changed in the 1820s, when the Jacquard loom head arrived on American shores. With a Jacquard head on his loom, a weaver could use a series of punchcards to “program” in a coverlet design. Van Ness embraced the new technology. This coverlet is of a design he variously called “Four Heads Liberty,” “Miss Liberty,” or (least romantically) “Design #2.”
In the mid-1800s, technical skill largely replaced creative vision among weavers. However, coverlets also became cheaper to make and to buy. It became much easier for average Americans to bring a piece of art, both beautiful and functional, into their home.
Medium Jacquard Woven Cloth
Material Cotton/Wool
Height (in) 80.5
Width (in) 73
Signed Name "J Van Ness"
Signature Location Bottom, center
Currently on view No
People Van Ness, James
Hadsell, Ira
Miller, Cornelia
Subjects Liberty
Fourth of July
Double weave
Figured and Fancy