Archive for June, 2010

Restorer finds 18th c. decorations in Damascus home

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

French engineer and avid restorer Jacques Montlucon bought a small but lovely classic courtyard home in Old Damascus six years ago. These old aristocratic homes are fading fast in the Syrian capital, and Montlucon has a yen to save as many as he can. This particular property caught his eye because of its beautiful fountain and its dazzling rooftop view of the Umayyad mosque.

A wood-panelled section of the painted walls in the iwanHe didn’t expect to find entirely unique wall paintings and stone carvings behind layers of varnish and 20th century tiles, however.

“I was removing the heavy varnish covering the wood-paneled walls in the iwan (reception room) when figures of painted strange birds, monsters and castles started to emerge,” he said, pointing to the fine drawing between the carved wood.

“The paintings are dated 1789, the year of the French Revolution. But who knows how long it had taken for the news to travel from Paris to Syria,” he said.

Section of the ceiling painting An imaginary black bird pulls a boat. A man points a rifle from the top of a castle on a sea and monsters fly over the water. The wood ceiling resembles an intricate Persian carpet.[…]

Behind plain 20th century tiles in the same room, Montlucon also uncovered carved stone walls with mosaic-like Arab patterns, a technique pioneered by the Mamluks, one of the many rulers of Damascus.

Syrian craftsmen had a reputation for carving stone as if they were cutting paper. They flourished during Ottoman rule from the 16th to early 20th century, and incorporated Persian and Western influences, such as baroque into their work.

The thing that makes these extraordinary decorative elements unique is their theme. Other historical homes in Old Damascus have similar paintings, but they’re of buildings and landscapes. The fantastical, mythological paintings Montlucon found are unheard of in other courtyard homes.

Montlucon thinks the owners who covered up all this magnificence might have been hiding opulence from the piercing gaze of tax collectors, or they could have just wanted to modernize. I find it hard to imagine someone thinking layers of varnish were more stylish than exquisite 18th c. paintings, or that some spackle and tile cut a more handsome figure than hand-carved stone mosaic patterns, but crazy is as crazy does, I suppose.

At least Montlucon has a properly reverent attitude towards preserving the beauty he uncovered. He made sure to use the mildest of restoration techniques: nothing more than cotton balls, water colors and basic solvents. It took him and a friend 6 months to reveal the full majesty of his walls.

 Jacques Montlucon on his rooftop with the Umayyad Mosque in the background


Polaroid Collection bankruptcy sale

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

When the rise of digital photography and a Ponzi scheme at its parent company killed the Polaroid star, a north Minnesota bankruptcy court hearing the case ordered the Polaroid Corporation’s extensive and venerable photography collection to go under the hammer, with all proceeds used to pay creditors. Sotheby’s is thrilled to the tips of its toesies to put some of the collection on sale on Monday and Tuesday. Meanwhile, they’ve selected 1,200 of the most notable photographs to go on display in their Manhattan offices. Admission is free.

"Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" mural-sized print by Ansel Adams The collection stars some of the greatest luminaries of American photography: Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, William Wegman and his Weimaraners, even Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol. Ansel Adams was a close friend and collaborator of Edwin Land, eccentric genius and inventor of the Polaroid instant developing technology. They worked together for decades experimenting with film and cameras, and to build the collection.

It’s the finest group of Ansel Adams prints in private hands, according to the Sotheby’s expert.There 400 of his pictures are in the auction, many of them taken with Polaroid cameras or film. Some are mural-sized and expected to fetch in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. Others are palm-sized snapshots like the ones all we old folks who were alive before the millennium know and love.

In fact, most of the pictures in the collection were taken with Polaroids. The ones that aren’t were personally collected by Ansel Adams at Land’s behest. They wanted to ensure the collection didn’t become overly narrow and that it would display a range of photographic techniques, so Land gave Adams a stipend to purchase pictures from his friends and colleagues to create what would become known as the Library Collection, a group of non-Polaroid pictures by masters like William Garnett and Minor White.

Polaroid Land CameraIt’s the Polaroid pieces that really stun and amaze me, however. The technology has so much more breadth than I realized. Inspired by his daughter’s disappointment that she could not see the picture he had taken of her on vacation in New Mexico in 1943 right away, Land invented a way to develop a negative into a positive before our very eyes. The first Polaroid instant camera, the Land Camera, went on sale in 1948 and it was a huge hit.

The SX-70, Land’s most popular camera [first sold in 1972], was as convenient as a mobile phone, folding flat so it could be stuffed in a pocket. Its styling – a skin of brushed aluminium with a panel of inlaid leather – flattered the user, advertising modernity while hinting at gentility. Like all good, exploitable ideas, this one had to be constantly reinvented so that consumers did not become bored. Although Land began by selling the Polaroid as something anyone could and should own, he also shrewdly fetishised his product, dreaming up ever more complicated cameras and engaging celebrated photographers to test them.

Ultra-Large self-portrait of Lucas SamarasAt first, Polaroid’s appeal lay in its portability and simplicity. But American entrepreneurs think big. Land went on to design a 20in by 24in camera, which had to be cumbersomely transported to the artists who were chosen to use it: manoeuvred into the New York apartment of Lucas Samaras; freighted to Robert Rauschenberg in Florida. By the 1980s Land had come up with a 40in by 80in camera, an immovable piece of furniture that was permanently domiciled at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where it made life-sized reproductions of paintings on single sheets of Polacolor film. The photographers who experimented with it, including Samaras, needed to engage assistants who actually sat inside it. Camera comes from the Latin for “chamber”, and this one – belying the pocket-sized handiness of the early models – was a virtual room.

Land made offers artists couldn’t refuse: he’d let them use his wild and appealing equipment if they’d give him the pictures they took. Polaroid got licensing and published rights, but the artists still retained their copyrights and exclusive access to their work. In this way Land built a corporate collection that was and remains a marvel of creative, unique artistry.

Some of the artists are furious at the sale, not surprisingly. The deals they struck with Land are not enforceable once the pieces are purchased by third parties.

Now that the collection is to be sold off, the terms of this deal have been questioned, and there may yet be a legal challenge to the sale. A federal judge in Oklahoma is rallying protest, pointing out that the bankruptcy court didn’t appreciate that Polaroids are unique, which means that the photographers will forfeit their right of access when their images are in private hands. The painter Chuck Close, who made a series of collaged self-portraits with the 20 by 24 camera, has denounced the sale as “criminal”. But so far, as Sotheby’s rather smugly announced a while ago, no photographer has made a legitimate case for the return of items destined for the block.

So the hammer will fall and the Polaroid Collection, lovingly curated by geniuses Edwin Land and Ansel Adams, will be dispersed all over the world. You can browse the e-catalogue on the Sotheby’s site to get a glimpse at the magnitude of this special collection.

For a riveting overview of the art and technology of the Polaroid Collection, please watch this video produced by Sotheby’s:

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Gigantic looted sarcophagus returned to China

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The enormous Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.) stone sarcophagus of Empress Wu Huifei (699-737 A.D.), looted from her tomb four years ago and smuggled to a buyer in the United States, has been returned to China.

The handsomely decorated sarcophagus was stolen from Wu’s tomb in southern Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, in 2006. Police didn’t even realize it was gone until they found photographs of it on a computer confiscated from a suspect in another tomb robbery. Archaeologists identified the artifact in the pictures as Empress Wu’s sarcophagus, setting the police off on an international hunt.

After two years of investigations, police discovered the sarcophagus had been smuggled out of China and sold to a businessman in the US for $1 million, police sources said.

“We contacted the businessman through mediators and told him we had to get the relic back. If necessary, we would seek help from Interpol,” said Han Yulin, head officer of the heritage investigation team of Xi’an’s public security bureau.

“After three rounds of negotiations, he agreed to return the relic to China unconditionally.”

Oh just three rounds? What a humanitarian. The sarcophagus was shipped from Virginia in March and arrived in Guangzhou a month later. It was put on display at the Shaanxi History Museum yesterday.

The part that really blows my mind is the sheer size of this beast. It’s not like Roman sarcophagi or even those big outer sarcophagi that contain pharaonic mummies. It weighs 27 tons and is 4 meters (13 feet) long, 2 meters wide and 2 meters tall. How in the name of all that’s unholy did the looters get something so gigantic out of the tomb? To say nothing of the logistics of schlepping such a massive piece across at least one continent and an ocean. What about customs? How is it possible to sneak around with a 27-ton stone coffin taller and wider than an NBA player and longer than two of them?

It just goes to show how deep a problem looting is, how adept and resourceful the criminals are.

Sarcophagus of Tang empress Wu Huifei


Queen Eadgyth confirmed

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Eadgyth's tomb in Magdesburg CathedralThe bones found in Magdeburg Cathedral in a coffin marked with the name of Queen Eadgyth, granddaughter of Alfred the Great and wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, have been confirmed as those of Queen Eadgyth herself. The bones had been moved several times over the centuries since her death in 946, so archaeologists couldn’t take the label on the 1510 coffin at face value.

Anthropological analysis of the bones confirmed that they belonged to a woman between 30 and 40 years old (Eadgyth died at 36) who was a frequent horse rider. Isotope analysis indicated a diet high in protein, including lots of fish, so clearly the lifestyle markers all pointed to a person of high status.

DNA testing wasn’t possible because the bones weren’t well-enough preserved, so the next step was to analyze the strontium and oxygen isotopes in the teeth to try to narrow down where she lived as a child.

Scientists examine bones of Queen EadgythIt was possible to ‘triangulate’ the location of the first 14 years of Eadgyth’s life, which pin point the chalk regions of southern Britain.

Mark Horton, Professor in Archaeology at the University of Bristol, said: ”Eadgyth seems to have spent the first eight years of her life in southern England, but changed her domicile frequently, matching quite variable strontium ratios in her teeth.

”Only from the age of nine, the isotope values remain constant.

”Eadgyth must have moved around the kingdom following her father, king Edward the Elder during his reign.

”When her mother was divorced in 919 – Eadgyth was between nine and ten at that point – both were banished to a monastery, maybe Winchester or Wilton in Salisbury.”

The confirmation of Eadgyth’s identity is exciting not only because the latest and greatest science was able to answer questions that would have been unanswerable just a few years ago, but also because these are the oldest remains of a British royal ever found. Her brother Athelstan has a tomb in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, but the remains were lost during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.


Caravaggio’s bones may have been found

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Caravaggio's bonesA team of forensic anthropologists who have been examining bones from a Porto Ercole crypt for 6 months think they’ve located Caravaggio’s. They can’t be absolutely sure, but all tests consistently point to Caravaggio’s vital statistics so they’re comfortable enough to say there’s an 85% probability that the bones in question belonged to one Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio.

They started with documents uncovered by art historian and Caravaggio expert Maurizio Marini. Marini searched church and hospital records in Port Ercole, the last place Caravaggio is thought to have fled to in 1610 after escaping his umpteenth bloody scrap this time in Naples, where 4 knights in armor wounded him. In the records of the Church Of St Erasmus, Caravaggio was listed as having died in the parish in 1609 and been buried in the small cemetery of nearby San Sebastiano. (The Porto Ercole area of Tuscany was still using the Julian calendar at that time, hence the date discrepancy.)

The San Sebastiano cemetery had been converted into a city park in 1956 and all the bones transferred to 3 crypts in St. Erasmus cemetery, so when the anthropologists decided to look for Caravaggio’s remains, that’s where they started. They sorted through the remains of 30-40 people interred in the first of the crypts, separating out the bones that belonged to men who probably died in the 17th century.

These were then taken to a special laboratory set up for the occasion in a building that used to house the town’s elementary school.

Here they narrowed down the search further, before taking candidate remains to the anthropology department in Ravenna for a series of tests.

The first analysis used carbon-dating, to try establish exactly how old the bones were. Compatible fragments were then tested for high concentrations of lead and mercury, metals that were commonly used in paints during Caravaggio’s day. The final step was DNA testing. Samples were extracted from the bones and compared with male volunteers surnamed Merisi, believed to be descendents of Caravaggio’s brother.

Out of the 9 potential sets, set number 5 hit all the markers: they belonged to a tall man for the time (5’7″), between 38 and 40 years old, who died around 1610, with toxic levels of lead in his bones. The modern DNA samples were found to be 50-60% compatible with the bones, which is about as solid a match as could be expected seeing that the DNA in the remains has degraded over time and none of the current Merisis are direct descendants of Caravaggio who died childless.

The cause of death remains unconfirmed. National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage President and famed historical cold case investigator Silvano Vinceti thinks the wounds inflicted by the assassin knights in Naples became infected. They think he may have been weakened by lead poisoning and maybe even suffering from sunstroke, but that last of course can’t be detected via bone analysis.


Louvre gives Veronese lady two bad nose jobs

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Art experts are accusing the Louvre museum of having badly botched the restoration of Veronese’s Supper at Emmaus, giving a key female figure not one but two hideous nose jobs.

The first time they made the classic mistake you see so often in cosmetic surgeries today: turning an unusual down-turned nose tip into a pert, straight, little button nose with ultra-thin nostrils. The second time they tried to repair the repair and the result is a weird, wide-nostriled nose which somehow manages to look both flattened and bulbous. The lips have suffered too. They went from thin to bow-shaped to pouty.

'Supper at Emmaus' nose jobs

Figure 1 is the original face of the mother in Supper at Emmaus. She has a lovely character-filled nose with a gentle bump, a down-turned tip, a slender upper lip and a full bottom one. In figure 2 the “repaints”, additions thought to have been made over the centuries by past restorers, have been removed. In figure 3, you see the first nose job with its button nose and completely different upper lip. Finally figure 4 is how the painting looks now, with its down-turned again but sharper nose tip, misshapen nostrils, amorphously swollen lips and disappeared filtrum.

Michel Favre-Félix, president of the Association for the Respect and Integrity of Artistic Heritage (Aripa) in Paris, said: “Veronese had pictured a noble family mother, as an echo to the Virgin Mary, and it has been turned into a caricature of a 21st-century adolescent, with bloated cheeks and a ridiculous pout.”

He accused the restorers of unnecessarily retouching Veronese’s original and of “falsifying the whole physiognomy and expression”.

More seriously, their “re-retouching”, as he put it, was a covert repainting without leaving any record of their actions in the museum’s files.

Describing the attempt to correct the first restoration as a “tacit admission” of “gross errors”, Favre-Félix said that the museum has refused to acknowledge the second restoration, despite photographic evidence showing how the painting has changed.

The French press went ballistic on the Louvre when they noticed the first restoration, so apparently the museum went in surreptitiously for a second round of Michael Jacksoning but without making a record of it in their own official files. Louvre officials describe the second nose job as a “bichonnée”, ie, a little “pampering”, so minor that there was no reason to add it to the painting’s dossier.

Restoration watchdog group ArtWatch UK will publish an exposé of the Supper at Emmaus nose jobs in their journal this month (available only to members, I’m sad to say), just in time for the Louvre committee’s June 18th meeting to decide whether to restore Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin and Child with St Anne. If they do go ahead with it, ArtWatch fears that the Mona Lisa will be next, since there are tons of big money sponsors who would love to throw cash at the Louvre if it meant they would get to be associated with the masterpiece.

"Supper at Emmaus" by Veronese  ca. 1559


Vladivostok roadworkers find Stalin-era mass grave

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Researcher holds skull found in Vladivostok mass graveWorkers building a road outside of Vladivostok, Russia, have found at least 495 skeletons buried in what is believed to be a Stalin-era mass grave. They haven’t finished excavating the area yet, but so far they’ve uncovered 3.5 tons of bones.

Millions of Soviet citizens were executed or died in labor camps during Stalin’s rule from the 1920s until his death in 1953, but discoveries of mass graves became less frequent after a surge in finds that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Experts were checking the hypothesis that the bodies were victims of Stalin’s purges.

“Practically all of the skulls have bullet wounds,” said Yaroslav Livanksy, the head of a group of volunteers who helped to excavate the site.

He said money and clothes from the 1930s had been found at the site. A crushed child’s skull was discovered close to a bead bracelet and a small slipper.

The variety of small personal belongings and the copious bullet holes in the head suggest that the victims were rounded up either without being told where they were going, or were told they were being taken to a work camp. Instead of going to the gulag where, dismal nightmare of a life though it would have been, those personal belongings would have at least been of use, all those people were taken to the outskirts of town and murdered.

There were large numbers of empty vodka bottles buried with the remains. Livansky thinks they were probably left behind by the executioners either rejoicing in a job well down or escaping the hideous reality of having just shots hundreds of men, women and babies in the head.


Sticky rice mortar key to Chinese buildings’ strength

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Archaeologists have known for a long time that sticky rice was mixed with lime to make a strong, long-lasting mortar during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) because it was mentioned in a Ming-era construction techniques book. Archeological investigations indicate that it was in use long before then, that in fact it was a mature technology during the South-North Dynasty (386-589).

Now a study published in Accounts of Chemical Research, the American Chemical Society’s journal, explains exactly how the rice works to produce a mortar that gets stronger and stronger with time.

The super-strong mixture is made by combining sticky rice soup with a standard mortar ingredient called slaked lime, or limestone that has been heated to a high temperature and exposed to water, said study researcher Bingjian Zhang, a professor at the Department of Chemistry at Zhejiang University in China.

“Analytical study shows that the ancient masonry mortar is a kind of special organic-inorganic composite material,” Zhang said. “The inorganic component is calcium carbonate, and the organic component is amylopectin, which comes from the sticky rice soup added to the mortar.”

The secret ingredient that makes the mortar so strong and durable is amylopectin, a type of polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, found in rice and other starchy foods, the scientists determined. The mortar’s potency is so impressive that it can still be used today as a suitable restoration mortar for ancient masonry.

The team experimented with several formulas of lime mortar combined with sticky rice and performance tested the end-results compared to traditional lime mortar. They found that the rice-lime mixtures was more able to withstand environmental stresses, less permeable to water, and far more compatible with historic structures than lime alone.

If you use contemporary mortar with historic masonry, the hardness of the mortar will destroy historic bricks which can be much softer than bricks made today. The mortar has to be softer than the brick, so recreating the original mortar used in the construction of the building allows you to preserve as much of the original structure as possible.

Ancient buildings made with rice mortar are known to have withstood centuries of powerful earthquakes and even modern heavy machinery. A bulldozer wasn’t able to budge a Ming dynasty tomb made from rice mortar.


Thousands of mint condition toys up for auction

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Michael O’Hearn is a retired architect and restorer of Victorian homes who has spent 28 years collecting toys in the best possible condition. He never sold a single piece over those three decades. He just bought, so his immense collection was virtually unknown even by experts.

Micheal O'Hearn with his toy collectionThere are over 4,000 toys in his collection, from 46 different categories of toy collectibles. Two-thirds of them are automotive, plus sci-fi pieces, boardwalk things (carnival toys, clowns, animals, airplane), wind-up toys, cast iron, tin lithographs, you name it. Once he knew his way around, he made a point of collecting toys with their original boxes, and he treated those boxes with kid gloves, filling them with styrophoam and even shrink-wrapping them to ensure the colors stayed brilliant and the shape crisp. Now over half of his toys, 2,500 of them, come with their original boxes.

O’Hearn is 70 years old now, and he’s decided it’s time to move on from this part of his life and let his meticulously collected and preserved toys go to the next generation collectors. His entire collection, every last steel-pressed car, plastic robot, lithographed space station, will be up for auction on Friday, July 16, at Dan Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania.

Tin Space Fuel StationThe Friday, July 16 session will open with more than 75 boxed robot and space toy lots. Highlights include boxed examples of a New Space Station (estimate $1,000-$1,500), a standard Space Station ($1,500-$2,000) and a friction Space Bus ($1,200-$1,800). A TV Space Patrol Car is expected to make $1,500-$2,500. […]

The panoramic sub-collection of Japanese toys spans the era from pre-World War II through the boom years of postwar toymaking, known for its colorful and imaginative designs. “It covers quite a range – celluloid, battery ops, tin airplanes, big ’50s cars,” said Morphy. A #58 Atom Jet racecar is estimated at $2,000-$4,000, as is a windup Harley motorcycle. A fleet of sleek cars includes a prewar Packard ($1,200-$1,800), 1954 red Alps Cadillac ($1,500-$2,500) and Lincoln Futura ($1,500-$2,500). A 1958 Buick Century has its cruise control set at $1,000-$1,500; while a newspaper delivery station wagon is expected to apply the brakes at $1,200-$1,800. A prized 1956 Haji Ford Sunliner with box could realize $4,000-$6,000.

Don’t let those price tags intimidate you. There are some very reasonably priced items for the new (or broke) collector, and you can bid online.

If you prefer your antique cars full-sized and souped up, O’Hearn is selling two insanely awesome hot rods as well.

The first, which he has owned for the past 26 years, is a 1927 Model T with green body, black fenders and black tonneau. Its original all-steel body has a new undercarriage, Ford Cobra engine and Jaguar front and rear end – which hot rodders love. Described by O’Hearn as “a deluxe mini racecar in an antique body,” the car has air conditioning, power steering and a 50-gallon gas tank in its trunk.

“At first glance, it looks like a Model T, but it’s deceptive,” said O’Hearn. I would take it out for a spin and have a little fun when people would drive by, pointing at the old Model T. I’d hit the gas and leave them in the dust.”

The second hot rod, which O’Hearn has owned for 30 years, is a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible pickup truck in two-tone brown with chrome accenting and pinstriping. The all-original steel body accommodates a big-block Chevy engine, and its full truck bed has alternating wood panels. It has power steering, a wood dashboard and removable convertible top. Like the Model T, the powerful pickup truck has always been garaged in California, avoiding wet or cold winters. Both are licensed for the road, have been scrupulously maintained and are offered at auction complete with service records and protective covers.

Behold the awesome and despair:

Pimped out 1927 Ford Model T


Rare picture of slave children (EDIT: OR NOT) found in attic

Friday, June 11th, 2010

EDIT: It turns out that the AP story, Keya Morgan and the other experts cited in this article were totally wrong. It’s not a Brady print; it’s not of slave children and it’s not even rare. Here’s a copy in the New York Public Library
where you can see the photographer was Jerome Nelson, the picture was taken ca. 1870 and is charmingly entitled “Plantation Scene; Happy Little Nigs.”

I actually think the truth is even more compelling that the falsehood. That’s what passed for “happy” for black kids in the post-Reconstruction South. Many thanks to Linda Rowan for alerting me to the bullshit in a comment below.

* * *

Slave children found in attic, courtesy of Keya MorganA Civil War-era picture of two slave children was found in the attic of a Charlotte, North Carolina home. The homeowner was collecting things for a moving sale and found the picture along with a document describing the sale of one “John” in 1854.

In April, the photo was found at a moving sale in Charlotte, accompanied by a document detailing the sale of John for $1,150, not a small sum in 1854.

New York collector Keya Morgan said he paid $30,000 for the photo album including the photo of the young boys and several family pictures and $20,000 for the sale document. Morgan said the deceased owner of the home where the photo was found was thought to be a descendant of John.

A portrait of slave children is rare, Morgan said.

“I buy stuff all the time, but this shocked me,” he said.

Art historians think the picture was taken in the early 1860s, either right before or right after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. The picture is from the Brady studio, however this photograph was most likely not taken by Matthew Brady himself, but by his apprentice Timothy O’Sullivan. Matthew Brady, the famous Civil War photographer, and his apprentices took many pictures of slaves around that time. They were used by abolitionists to drum up support for the war in the North.

Most of those pictures were of adult slaves who have been severely physically abused and had visible scars, though. Children, even incredibly sad-eyed ones like the boys in this picture, were not so obvious symbols of the violence and degradation of slavery.

Keya Morgan has a well-known collection of Civil War photographs, including the world’s largest collection of original Abraham Lincoln photographs. He’s keeping the picture and document in his personal collection right now, but he’s already received a sales inquiry from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other photographs in his collection have found permanent homes in the collections of the White House, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian and even the Louvre.

Document of sale of slave named "John", courtesy of Keya MorganMorgan is also considering collaborating on a documentary about John. From the article it’s clear that Morgan thinks the John described in the sales document is one of the boys in the picture, but I’m not sure how they know that. Perhaps there’s an age reference in the document that I can’t read (there are no high resolution pictures that I could find), or maybe it’s just an assumption or even symbolic shorthand.






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