War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics
War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics brings the art form of ‘military intarsia’ back to vivid life with some 30 breathtaking examples spanning from the Napoleonic Wars through the Crimean War of the mid-19th century to the late 19th century British colonial wars in India and southern Africa.
Although now largely forgotten, ‘military intarsia’ quilting is a craft that was widely practised in British and European militaries of the 18th and 19th centuries, where soldiers repurposed scraps of discarded military and dress uniforms – often no more than a couple of centimetres in size – to construct spellbinding textile mosaics with the most intricate and beautiful geometric patterns.
These quilts demonstrate not only the remarkable skill of the makers, but also reflect the preoccupations of these ordinary soldiers as they served in wartime – some declaring their patriotism with images of flags, coats of arms or embroidered portraits of monarchs, others more personally focussed with dedications to siblings or village and pastoral vignettes. These quilts stand as a testament that beauty can still be derived from the most terrible of circumstances.
Image: Maker unknown (initials J.S.J), Intarsia with soldiers, c. 1760-80, possibly Prussia, wool, all hand-sewn, intarsia, 140 x 110 cm. The Annette Gero Collection. Photo Tim Connolly, Shoot Studios.