Valance fragment, "America Presenting at the Altar of Liberty..."

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  • England, used in Virginia
  • ca. 1785
  • Plate-printed cotton with linen tape.
  • Gift of Anne Galt Kirby Black and Eugene C. Black
  • 1978-246-1

Although this valance is fragile, fragmentary, and badly faded from its original dark purple to brown, it is a rare survival of a bed hanging once used in Williamsburg by the family of Dr. John Minson Galt. The printed design shows the goddess "Victory" crowning George Washington. A female "America" presents medallions of heroes on the altar of liberty. After the Revolutionary War, British manufacturers lost little time in producing copperplates such as this one specifically for the new patriotic American market.

The valance matches a set of straight panel curtains intended to enclose the bed. The valance is gathered to a narrow tape that was nailed to the tester frame of the bed. Gathered valances were used in the eighteenth century and continued into the following century. George Hepplewhite called them "petticoat valances" in his 1788 The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide.

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