Provençal hand-quilted cotton waistcoat, c.1800-30
The vibrant marigold yellow and exquisite hand quilting, both typically found in Provençal pieces, suggest France as the country of origin. This waistcoat, which has no known provenance, was purchased by a collector many years ago in France.
In the early 19th century, aniline dyes made golden yellow available to all. Long before that time, this marigold hue was associated with Provençal plant dyes of wild sumac, saffron, and sunflower petals. The bold and brilliant color signals the joie de vivre of the South of France: the sun showering its life-giving warmth on plants and people alike.
The intense color brings to mind Vincent Van Gogh's painting, Sower with Setting Sun (1888), painted in Arles, in the heart of Provence. About the color, Van Gogh had this to say: "It is thus a color which is not true from the point of view of a realistic trompe l'oeil, but a color which suggests one sort of emotion, a passionate temperament."
Quilted waistcoats, also called jumps, were worn indoors by women for warmth and support in place of a corset. They were especially favored by pregnant women, who could no longer endure tight lacing. There is no front closure. The fullness can be adjusted in back with ties. The waistcoat is completely hand sewn.
The waistcoat is fashioned from golden yellow cotton and is lined with beige cotton and a thin layer of batting. The layers are hand quilted together with a diamond pattern of perfect little stitches. The color differentiation of the shades of yellow in back is in fact not great—the camera exaggerates the difference in hue.
The condition is excellent and all original. The few flaws are minor: a few pin-prick holes on the right front at the neckline; and two missing back ties—you can see the remaining stubs in the picture of the back below.
It measures: 36" bust, 34" waist, 38" hip, and 19" from the shoulder to the hem.