Researcher identifies painter of iconic imageGood stuff.
Williamsburg -- For 75 years, an unsigned watercolor known as "The Old Plantation" has ranked as the best-known and most widely reproduced image in the vast Colonial Williamsburg collection. But not until now has anyone known who created this rare, unusually sympathetic glimpse of 1700s Southern slave culture.
The secret was unearthed by a Colonial Williamsburg researcher following a trail reopened in 2008 by the acquisition of a second watercolor also showing a black subject that came from the same hand.
Turning to a related lead that had lain dormant since the 1970s, Susan Shames made her way through a two-century-deep genealogical thicket to positively identify a deeply religious South Carolina planter and slaveholder named John Rose as the artist.
Acquired by folk art collector Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in 1935, the iconic image has long perplexed and delighted scholars, who have reproduced the mysterious yet invaluable document of slave music, dance and society countless times in textbooks and academic publications.
"It's extremely rare and it's been published so many times that we can't keep track of it," said Ronald Hurst, chief curator and vice president of collections, conservation and museums. "It's literally on thousands of websites."
"Susan has unlocked one of the great secrets of American art," Hurst said. "Her diligence and dedication have revealed the career of an obscure 18th-century painter and the lives of the unnamed slaves depicted in an iconic image." [link]
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