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Annie Righton Smith

Appliquéd Quilt (Center Medallion)
about 1840 Georgia or South Carolina
chintzes and white cotton; quilted in various patterns
86 1/4 x 86 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia Smith Melton

A family tradition spanning six generations holds that this classic Southern, appliqué quilt was made in the mid-1830s by Annie Righton who in 1818 married William Smith, a merchant in Charleston, S.C. The Rightons had immigrated to America with James Oglethorpe, the “founder” of Georgia, and the bedcover is said to have been made on one of the Righton family plantations either near Augusta, Georgia, or on Beech Island, S.C. The quilting is in various patterns—zigzags, outline stitching, crosshatch, and small clamshells—and, again according to tradition, was done by the family's slaves.

Known subsequently as broderie perse (French for Persian embroidery), this distinctive form of appliqué used individual flowers cut out from large-figured chintzes. Stitched onto plain, white backgrounds, the colorful printed blooms mimicked embroidery—hence the name. Broderie perse quilts were a specialty in the Charleston area. This veritable garden of chintz flowers is a classic of its kind.