This quilt or coverlet was worked by May Gaskell from a sixteenth-century design translated for her by Burne-Jones and clearly showing something of his hand in its linear arabesques. Visiting the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum, they had admired an embroidered quilt of Swiss or German origin dated 1580. Still in the collection, it represents the five senses- touch (tactus), sight (visus), hearing (auditus), smell (olfactus) and taste (gustus)- personified by female figures. Josceline Dimbleby describes how 'May wanted to reproduce this lovely work herself, so Burne-Jones gave her two little notebooks. "He used to go to the museum with me in the evenings", May wrote. "and draw the designs for me while I copied the very intricate stitches to work".'
The quilt was eventually completed in 1910, twelve years after Burne-Jones's death. Dimbleby reproduces a photograph of May Gaskell giving it the final touches (op.cit., facing p. 247).
The label gives May the C.B.E. she was awarded after the First World War for her work for the War Library. She moved to 28 Albion Street, Bayswater, in 1923.