Marriage Quilt (Colcha)
Unknown artist, Indian; Portuguese, Portugal
Marriage Quilt (Colcha), 18th century
Silk plain weave with silk chain-stitch embroidery
Length: 271.8 cm (107 inches)
Jesse Metcalf Fund 1996.99
Abounding with embroidered flowers and scrolling vines on a silk ground, this marriage quilt (colcha) was likely made near the city of Castelo Branco in central Portugal’s Beira Baixa region. During the seventeenth century, the area developed a well-known cottage industry in response to exotic Indian textiles brought back to Portugal as luxury goods. Women from both modest and wealthy households were involved in colcha embroidery. Indian artisans transported to Portugal to guide local production left their distinct mark on coverlets, such as the carnation design on this one, a motif probably derived from the Eastern lotus blossom. At the height of the colcha craze during the eighteenth century, brides of all social strata considered having one in their trousseau a necessity.