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Tool chest

view Tool chest digital asset number 1
E. (or J.) Watts
Wooden planks White fill material (casein/lime base? gypsum plaster?) Oil paint with varnish
This tool chest is painted with vivid scenes--an allegory perhaps, showing black plantation workers ascending to heaven and the plantation owner descending to hell.
The four sides of this story chest depict scenes from plantation life and the consequences of slavery. Perhaps the depictions of hard field labor, cultivating cotton and melons, were remembered from the artist’s own experience. The story ends with African American former slaves ascending into a Paradise filled with the pleasures of good food, riches, and music. Ripe fruits, turkey, and roasts of meat hang from a tree in heaven. By contrast, the souls of slave owners perch precariously over the fiery pits of hell.
The narrative satirical style of the art work is both biting and amusing. The contrast between the depiction of the exertions of the field workers and the idle pampering of the landowners is stark.
This chest may have been used to store tools, but its purpose is uncertain. Similarly, the identity of the artist E. (or possibly J.) Wats remains unknown, and is a subject of investigation today.
The tool chest comprises of different parts:
2 cast iron (tannic patina) butt hinges (2 1/2" x 1"), constructed with a single knuckle
and pin and 6 flathead screws (3 on each door wing)
Location: Joins the lid and trunk
2 cast iron (tannic patina) butterfly handles, constructed
with a pivoting handle and attached to the trunk by four caste
iron flathead screws.
Location: Each on opposing ends (lengthwise)
Base legs:
22 iron nails on each leg.
2 Natural resin coated, wooden planks (8 1/2" x 13", 9" x 13")
Mitered moulding surrounding the base
Accession Number:
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Anacostia Community Museum Collection
Data Source:
Anacostia Community Museum
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