May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Possibly West Chester, Pennsylvania


Cotton, silk, wool, and ink, with cotton embroidery

88 1/2 x 72"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of the Amicus Foundation, Inc., and Evelyn and Leonard Lauder, 1986.20.1

Photo by Schecter Lee

Susan Arrowood (dates unknown)

"Sacret Bibel" Quilt Top

There is a fervent spontaneity to this quilt top, which stands in great contrast to many late nineteenth-century quilts that are highly symmetrical and tightly controlled. Although there is a clear organization, the collaged paper-doll-like appliqués and handwritten pen-and-ink inscriptions lend a heartfelt intimacy that draws the viewer deep into the spirit of the religious experience. The artist included her own name, and the title of the bedcover is written on a strip of muslin near the bottom edge.

The quilt top is bisected by the muddy Jordan River, the river of life, flowing from the canopy of heaven under a celestial starry sky, where Jesus stands with his twelve disciples. The canopy is flanked by two church houses with floral fabric patches that emanate from the rooftops. The imagery is balanced on either side of the river, obeying the words from Revelation, including “Twelve desiples six one ach sid of the river” and two ribbons of linked figures “going to the tree of life.” Representations of John the Baptist and Jesus are tucked into a pocket in the river so that they appear to be submerged in water.

Stacy C. Hollander, “'Sacret Bibel' Quilt Top,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.