This cotton panel falls into a rare category of embellished textiles, in excellent condition, considering it was made around 1830 in Maine.
Around the time this single panel was made, the theorem method of painting with oils and stencils was taught in affluent girls schools. When the theorem method is used on most of the quilt's surface , it is usually referred to as a stencil quilt. Small motifs can be stenciled on blocks and combined with patchwork and appliqué blocks. From a distance or photo, these areas can appear to be appliquéd or embroidered. Sometimes the whole quilt can look like applique and turn out to be stenciled. (This makes reading the caption important.) This method was much faster, but required different skills and templates.
Today's art quilters use similar techniques. Their stencils are different, and the paints are seldom oil, but the joy and quick process for dynamic results remains the same. Here is a feast of stencils available today.
Although few antique quilts remain,there are examples in the collections of these museums; American Folk Art Museum, NY, Sturbridge Village, MA, Shelburne Museum, VT, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daughter's of the American Revolution, and others. Links to each of these museums and many more are here.
Lynne Z. Bassett, former curator of Sturbridge Village Museum, wrote an excellent article about the history of stencil quilts for The Magazine Antiques in February 2003.
While at the Shelburne Museum website, be sure to check out their building named the Stencil House, where the walls, woodwork and furniture are stenciled.
P.S. Synchronicity! This info was posted on the quilt history list that I read this morning.
In the August issue of the magazine Early American Life is the article
EYE ON ANTIQUES: SLEEPING WITH STENCILS, by Jeanmarie Andrews
"Young girls schooled in fancy decorative techniques took paintbrush in hand to stencil these rare bedcovers." You can order a copy here http://www.ealonline.com/editorial/toc.php?id=0808