Friday, June 17, 2011

Acanthus Plant - New Pattern Added to my Collection

Another Unusual Find

I had never seen this broad-leaf pattern (below) on a quilt prior to my find on eBay December 2010.This is a Four-Block quilt.

I am assuming the tan was once green but I can find no real evidence of it.  Even where the loose fabric enables me to get under the tan, there is no appearance of the green left.

The fact that the red has worn so unevenly makes me wonder if the red wasn't from two different dye lots.  Seems strange that some leaves held-up so well and others did not.

Below is a photo of a Corithn column with two ranks of stylized acanthus leaves.  Is that what this leaf is -- an interpretation of the acanthus plant?

Below is the leaf on the quilt side-by side with a large acanthus leaf.

Here are four different architectural variations of the acanthus in 
various periods of history.

You will often see this pattern in Moulded Ceilings as well. Click here to see some beautiful examples.

Below is another variation from a stair railing at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

And still another column.

So far I have found two legends about the plant but there are probably more.

Acanthus. The acanthus plant grows throughout much of the Mediterranean region. Its large leaves appear in many ancient sculptures, especially on top of columns in the Greek style called Corinthian. Legends says that after a young girl's death, her nurse placed her possessions in a basket near her tomb. An acanthus plant grew around the basket and enclosed it. One day the sculptor Callimachus noticed this arrangement and was inspired to design the column ornament.

As seen on a green wedgewood teapot.

From Wikipedia:

Acantha (Greek: Ἀκάνθα, English translation: "thorny") was a minor character in Greek mythology. She was a nymph loved by Apollo, the sun god. In one version of the story, Acantha refused Apollo's advances and scratched his face when he tried to rape her. Apollo then turned her into an acanthus plant.[1] Another version features Acantha as a mortal man who returned Apollo's advances.[2] The matter of Acantha's identity is further confused by the fact that the acanthus plant is not a tree, but a shrub or bush, and therefore is unlikely to have had a nymph associated with it. This may simply indicate that it was perceived to be a tree at the time the myth was created.

Here you see the use of this plant's pattern in clothing.

The little nine patch checkerboard at the intersections of the four blocks is a nice touch.

A second acanthus quilt pattern appears within 6 months!

Now came the real surprsie. I found another quilt made of this pattern just this week! It has the very same over-all loss of the green coloring to that same creamy tan!  They came from opposite coasts of the country. Oh how I wish there was some history of the source of these two pieces! Is it possible the two women knew each other and shared the pattern?

When I first spotted this  quilt I thought it had stains.Upon closer look, however, what looks like stains in this photo are actually those same "tan-looking" leaves.

I'd appreciate from hearing from anyone who has a photo of a quilt similar to this pattern or knows of a published source for this pattern.

UPDATE: Tim Latimer of Tim Latimer Quilts, etc sent me a link to another Acanthus plant whose leaf looks even more like this quilt's pattern! (Be sure to check out Tim's gorgeous quilting!)


PS: August 29, 2011

See an update to this design inspired by the acanthus plant by clicking here  


  1. I am thinking Acanthus leaves must have some significance beyond "pretty or handsome". Your post with all the referances across many disaplines sure points that way.

    Now what if these ladies lived in the same house and made their quilts and one struck off for the gold fields of Cali later in life.

    You have a story in the making and it would such fun if more facts came to light. Thanks for showing us .....

    Posting as ananoymous as blogger will not let me post google and I don't want to loose this post. :-) Texas

  2. This is a very interesting leaf quilt. I also noticed the quilting. There is a lot of it and different designs.

  3. Dear Anon, thanks for visiting and posting. I would love to find such a story behind these two quitls, but alas, neither seller knows anything about the originas or history of either quilt.

  4. Your posting is so interesting. I hope someone can help you solve the mystery.

  5. A lot of Victorian furniture has this motif, perhaps it was just 'in the air', though the quilts have remarkable similarities the 2nd quilt seems to have leaves more finely drawn.

  6. What a treasure this "separated at birth" pair of quilts is! Thanks for sharing them. The acanthus pattern is so different, it is hard to imagine that they don't have some kind of connection to each of the mysteries of the quilting world....lesson for us today....Always document and label your quilts!!


  7. It does make one wonder. I just came across a separated at birth group of quilts from the same time as yours, 1 in the red/white exhibit, 1 Mark French just posted (with its exhibit twin) on Facebook and the other Molly at Fourth Corner Quilts just sold on eBay. All the same applique pattern, tho Molly's had some of the tan fading. Makes one thinks there were more patterns floating around then we have yet found.

  8. Sandra, have you posted these photos to a blog? I would love to see the three quilts you are talking about!

  9. Posting an email from Gaye Ingram with permisssion.


    That leaf does not look to me to be a lot like the most common acanthus (the spiney acanthus) found in most of North America. and I would guess the maker used the leaves for patterns. Most often called Bear's Breech, that plant is thought to be the model for some of the "Bear's Foot" patterns and, I suspect, its tall flower inspired a pattern that Judy Grow and I used to think was modeled on a musical instrument often used in church processionals. Judy has a fine quilt in that pattern, red and green. Maybe she will send you a pic.

    Your pattern does resemble a very recent acanthus native to China that an Oregon plantfinder is now propagating. You can see these and others by going to (the only financial interest I have in this firm has been outgoing, not incoming). That said, plants turn up sports all the time.

    The leaf pattern reminds me more of the leaf of a kind of a passalong poppy that down here we call "oriental poppy," one that makes interesting seed pods useful in fall flower arrangements. Look at the center of those leaves: it closely resembles the center of the poppy flower and a cross-section, once the seed has formed.

    Knowing the origin of the quilt would help, this appears to have been copied from nature. Most of the older botanic patterns are more stylized than this one.

    I think many early quilt patterns that now bear other names originally were inspired by plants. This would be particularly true in Protestant religious groups that had no rich source of symbols readily accessible.


  10. What great information on these quilts. So exciting to know and look for more. Thanks so much for sharing your passion and knowledge.

  11. Thank you, Lynn, for stopping by. Be sure to let me know if you ever see another one like this one!

  12. I love how you've drawn visual connections to things in art, architecture, and nature. It's a brilliant way to pursue the meaning of the design, and not just because I've begun to do the same with the New York Beauties. Your work really inspires me.