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The Winter Art Show

December 2023
1min read

At first it might seem strange that on a quilt so ebulliently celebrating Northern arms the only character identified by name is the Confederate president Jefferson Davis. But Davis was much in the public mind in 1867 when the quilt was sewn—probably by a New York woman—because that was the year he gained his release from Virginia’s Fortress Mon roe, where he had been imprisoned since the end of the war. The Northern press made much of the magnanimity reflected in the gesture: “We rejoice in the strength and nobility of a popular government which can properly do an act so unprecedented as the virtually unconditional release of such an offender,” said Harper’s Weekly , and then went on to remind the reader of the offense in the strongest terms: “ JEFFERSON DAVIS and his associates, to gratify a fierce political ambition, sought to destroy a mild government which they had always controlled, not because it threatened their liberty or property, but because they feared it might prevent their destroying the liberty and stealing the property of other men.” But the author of what the present owner calls the “reconciliation quilt” had no such iron tenor to impart, and when her sunny vision of a healing nation came up for auction at Sotheby’s late last year, it fetched $264,000- more than anyone had ever paid for a quilt before.

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