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The Rhapsody of Roses

Design Statement

Diane Mularz

1997

This quilt was created in response to a contest sponsored by Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine – the sixth annual international quilt exhibition. The theme of the competition was "Rhapsody of Roses" and competitors were encouraged to "create a quilt that celebrates the beauty and romance of roses".

Based on initial research, Rhapsody of Roses became an intriguing and personally relevant theme for me to interpret as a quilt. A simple dictionary lookup revealed that a rhapsodist is but another name for a troubadour. Given that I am an amateur recorder player this theme now took on personal significance. With troubadours as a driving concept, the time period of interest became the middle ages in Europe. Again, the theme "blossomed". Rose symbolism and practical usage prevailed in the middle ages in such diverse disciplines as art, architecture, music, heraldry, and medicine. With such varied and rich sources to draw upon, the number of elements to be included in the quilt grew as the research continued. What evolved was the notion of a town scene that would incorporate many of them: a rose window modeled after the famous North window of the Chartres cathedral; rhapsodists (troubadours) playing common instruments of the time; and an apothecary store with the famed Apothecary rose bush growing beside it. The outer border is formed from a partial rendering of the verse from Rose, liz, printemps - a classic piece from the famous 15th century composer Mauchaut. While Mauchaut lived after the troubadours, he was greatly influenced by them. This piece draws analogies between love and nature, in particular the comparison of the author’s love to a rose, a common theme of the troubadours.

Rose and musical symbols were further introduced wherever possible into the overall design: a rose vendor is depicted selling his wares in front of the church, one of the ladies listening to the troubadours has a rose on her belt, the corners of the quilt are formed from a rose print fabric, and the clouds in the sky are in the shape and color of roses. The theme was even extended to the back of the quilt. A rose medallion print forms the primary background. It was not sufficiently wide to cover the entire body of the quilt so another fabric imprinted with sheet music was used to extend it to the required width -thereby uniting the two major elements of the design.

Research was also done to ensure accuracy of costuming and music: the clothing is predominantly jewel-toned, banded with contrasting colors as typically seen in art from this period; the women are wearing long dresses accompanied by elaborate headdresses; the men are dressed in costumes and hats typical of the era. Shoes for a gentleman reflected his rank in society, indicated by the depth of the curl in the toes. These "cracows" became so cumbersome for the highest ranking that the shoes had to be fastened to the stockings; the gentleman is wearing such a shoe as well as one of the troubadours. Finally, the outer border of the quilt employs a four line musical staff as opposed to the modern five line and square notes rather than oval are shown emanating from the musicians.

I hope that you enjoy viewing this quilt as much as I enjoyed creating it.