The heart has been a symbol of love since at least the Middle Ages. Though Aristotle is believed to have been the first western writer to define the visual shape of the heart, by the 14th century the familiar symbol we all recognize began to become standard. It was also the ancient Greeks who identified the heart as the human organ that could quake with passionate emotions. In Roman times, Venus used cupid to set mortal hearts on fire with a well aimed arrow. So today the heart shaped candy box or red heart emoji spells LOVE in most cultures of the world.
As the cold winter winds begin to take hold of the South Fork with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we go to our collections to find the perfect East Hampton representation of love. What better place to look than our collection of locally made bedcovers. Just the staggering amount of time spent piecing, stuffing and sewing a quilt represents the love of keeping one’s family warm. Some East Hampton quilters went the extra step to create unique patterns for their loved ones.
The “Wolf Quilt” was made by Mary Ann Bennett sometime before 1904 when she died at 53. We tend to date it about 1900, because the quilt was never finished. One of its squares (all original designs, many incorporating family history) features an illustration of four wolves, commemorating Edward Bennett’s bounty of two pounds for their killing in 1691. There are 96 squares and three of them use the heart symbol in various patch-work patterns. Other designs and symbols include birds, horses, a squirrel, flowers, scissors, acorns, oak leaves and a hand print. Various family initials of the quilter, her grandmother and children are scattered about the squares.
Mary Ann Bennett’s quilt is a masterpiece of American folk art. It was exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum and chosen for the New York Quilt Project and illustrated in “New York Beauties: Quilts from the Empire State” by Jacqueline Marx Atkins & Phyllis A. Tepper.