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The Jubilee Quilt (embroidered and appliqué table or bed cover)

The Jubilee Quilt (embroidered and appliqué table or bed cover)


Miss Blyth or Christina Blyth (attributed)

textile (cotton, silk)

224 h x 228 w cm

Presented by CR Radcliffe, 1936



This quilt was presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by CR Radcliffe in 1936. The attribution to Christina Blyth is based in part on two embroidered Inscriptions (one on the trompe l’oeil envelope, post marked and addressed to ‘Miss Blyth, Formby’, the other the inscription ‘Tina worked this’ embroidered elsewhere). It is also supported by Tasmanian State Archives noting a marriage record for an Eliza Ctina Sophia Blyth. While no birth or death dates are available, it is known that she married William McBain in Hobart in 1886, a year or two before the cloth was made. This may explain the Hobart postcode on the trompe l’oeil envelope. It is probable that ‘Ctina’ is an abbreviation of Christina and that the ‘Tina’ embroidered on the cloth is a diminutive of the same name. Eliza Blyth had four children, all born in northern Tasmania with one at Mersey (Devonport).


In the nineteenth century many utilitarian and decorative textiles were produced at home or in small craft workshops. The practice of quilting and the production of decorative cloths such as this one have a long history in Britain and in the British colonies. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, textiles became an increasingly important medium for individual creative expression. The design of the Jubilee Quilt is visually sophisticated with a complex interplay between decoration and representation. The organisation of the design around diminishing and overlaid fields has allowed the maker to generate a complex play between the essentially flat nature of textiles and the illusion of depth created by overlaying them against a consistent ground. The maker has also employed trompe l’oeil techniques that exploit the patterns and motifs of the fabric. For example, printed floral motifs become landscape backgrounds for figures while, in other places, standing in for printed decoration on ceramics in the representation of oriental vases.

The influence of Japan on British design in the last two decades of the nineteenth century—especially in the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements—is evident in the use of the fan motif and in the informal and asymmetrical structure of the design at a more detailed level. This influence is balanced against more nationalistic references to the British Empire in the flags that also form an important motif, and other whimsical, domestic references throughout the design.


A square bed or table cover with embroidered and appliqué decoration on one side; the reverse is plain red cloth. The decoration of the quilt is organised around several overlaid fields of diminishing size. The outer edge has a plain red border. Within this border the outermost field is decorated with a line of randomly placed representations of hand-held fans in various printed fabrics, enriched with embroidered and appliqué motifs. Scattered throughout the background along the inner edge of this panel are small appliqué flags of the various countries of the British Empire interspersed with butterflies and sprigs of foliage. The inner edge of this field is framed with an industrially produced decorative ribbon in gold on black.

The next field towards the centre is more complex in its organisation. There is a triangular reserve in each corner within which is placed a single appliqué fan. These corners produce an octagonal field that is ‘hung’ towards the centre with appliquéd ‘pennants’ in various fabrics. The pennants are decorated with appliquéd and embroidered images of figures, fans, peacock feathers, china and other objects. The pointed ends of the pennants fall into a field of plain red, within which there is a further square field framed by diagonally placed white, square panels embroidered with various motifs in outline.

The central field consists of a red shield containing the three Prince of Wales feathers that rests on trompe l’oeil representations of various objects such as cards, a fan and pictures of a cockatoo and a duck. These float on a symmetrical rectangular panel with three lobed sides made of patterned cloth. This, in turn, is framed by a square panel containing a starburst pattern made up of triangles of pale floral fabric alternating with inverted triangles of various dark, spotted fabrics.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of Tasmanian colonial decorative arts. This includes items in all media made in Tasmania from 1803 to 1901. Quilting and embroidery were important folk crafts in nineteenth-century Britain, North America and Australia. While there are many traditional forms, towards the end of that century and in the early twentieth century textiles also became a medium for individual and creative expression. The Jubilee Quilt shows the influence of the aesthetic movement, its design reflecting an interest in the arts of Japan also characteristic of that movement. The complex design clearly demonstrates the visual sophistication of its maker(s). It is also a document revealing at one level the kinds of fabric available in Tasmania in the late nineteenth century and at another level an implicit loyalty to the British Empire.


Embroidered trompe l’oeil envelope, post marked ‘HO’ (for Hobart) and addressed to ‘Miss Blyth / Formby‘. A second embroidered inscription reads: ‘Tina worked this’.



Jenny Manning, Australia’s Quilts: A Directory of Patchwork Treasures, AQD Press, Hunter’s Hill, NSW Australia, 1999

Annette Gero, Historic Australian Quilts, Beagle Press (Historic Houses Trust of Australia), Sydney, NSW, 2000

This website was made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provided funds for research, equipment and website design.

© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 1 July, 2010