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

Game table-sized examples 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 on this particular cigar silk piecework is very unusual. Typically fringes were constructed with some manner of silk floss, not ribbon. Here each band was embellished with a small eyelet, covered in crocheted needlework. When draping over the edges of the table, these acted as weights to keep the fringe in place. The variety of 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 late 19th century design. 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 to desirable graphics, the sewing was accomplished with the highest quality of workmanship that one may encounter in such examples, using tight, turkey-track style stitching, expertly executed with silk floss. Across the cigar silk pieceworks that I have owned, this is one of the very best. Some may argue that it is the best, providing for the largest and most unusual presentation with the long ribbon fringe extended.

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, and "Alfonso" may be from the same firm. 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 represented, with Cuban-specific names, but many were not easy to research because the words are so generic and there were so many makers. In Connecticut some of the best tobacco was grown that was used to wrap the exterior of cigars, and there were numerous Connecticut makers, but none of those I would recognize are among the bands on this particular piecework.

Mounting: 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.

Condition: 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.
Primary Color: yellow
Earliest Date: 1880
Latest Date: 1910
For Sale Status: Available
Price $9,500
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