Cut out chintz quilt with inked inscription
"A. G. Wilkins 1820 / M. D. Davis 1890”
"She most frequently beguiled her weary hours of sickness by designing and laying out fancy spreads in which she displayed beautiful taste . . . . I, as well as many of her descendants, have choice specimens of her handiwork which we prize highly.”
This photo from Dr. Dunton's book is NOT the Smithsonian's quilt but a
similar design supervised by Achsah Wilkins.
Achsah Wilkins's designs show how the curves and cartouches popular for rococo decor influenced quilt composition and style.
Rococo design abhored a straight line.
Marylanders had access to many European goods through the port of Baltimore but by the turn of the 19th century Baltimore boasted domestic workshops producing luxury goods done in the latest design ideas.
Pier table attributed to Baltimore's Finlay furniture shop.
Read more about Baltimore's painted and gilded furniture here:
Detail of the Smithsonian's quilt
Achsah Wilkins did not sew and her family said that black women actually stitched the quilts she designed. As Dr. Dunton wrote:
"this group of quilts and coverlets had been made under her direction by a group of young colored girls, possibly slaves, who had been trained by her."
Marylanders held slaves until the Civil War. The 1830 Census at the home of Baltimore's William G. Wilkins counted 2 slaves and 3 free blacks (1 female slave and 1 male slave, both ages 10 to 24 and 3 free black men from 10 to over 55.) Because the census did not list names aside from heads of household and because we do not know if Achsah's husband's middle initial was G. we cannot be sure that this is her household.
When we consider slave-made quilts we have to include those attributed to Achsah.
In his 1945 book Old Quilts Dr. William Rush Dunton pictured 13 similar Baltimore quilts in black and white, most of which had descended among Achsah's daughters.
I've found three color pictures of her quilts. One is the Smithsonian's.
See textile dealer Jan Whitlock's web site for this one, pictured in the Dunton book in plate 76, where it is attributed to Achsah and owned at the time by Mrs. Jacob Baer, her granddaughter.
Dena Katzenberg's 1981 catalog of an exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art she showed another coverlet attributed to Achsah Wilkins, this loaned by a great-granddaughter Mrs. Eric Lassotovitch.
It is in plate 73 on the right here. Plate 71 is almost identical.
Below more chintz quilts that would look up-to-date in a rococo room.
Charlton Hall Auction offered this quilt
attributed to Lavinia Eason, collection of Jennie Dreher
Detail showing the scrolls in the fabric and swags in the border.
Michigan State University owns this quilt that was once attributed to Abigail Adams although that is very unlikely. See more about it here:
Here's a quilt made in Maryland by Jane Knox Bitzel, #2008.040.003 in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum:
Read my post about rococo design here: