"...There are two kinds of antique quilts from Provence and neither is like American antique quilts, which are pieced together from scraps. The Provence quilts tend to be made of two large pieces of whole cloth, either cotton or silk, that are sewn together with some kind of filling element, like batting or cording, sandwiched between them.

''These quilts are intensely quilted and the quilting shows up because the background is often a neutral or solid color,'' said Laura Fisher. Ms. Fisher specializes in American quilts, "There was a strong needlework tradition in Provence,'' Ms. Fisher said. ''It's like a three-dimensional sculpture in thread. Quilting goes back to prehistory. In medieval times quilted cloth was used as insulation in winter garments as well as armor, to protect its wearer from arrows."

''What distinguished the work of Provencal needle women was their vision of the decorative possibilities inherent in these lines of stitching,'' Ms. Berenson writes in her book. ''They developed the ability to realize complex, minutely detailed patterns in beautiful, well-proportioned motifs merely through the play of light and shadow on the surface of a textile.'' Today, these quilts are often called ''boutis.''