about 1840

Object Place: Medford, Massachusetts


Overall: 25.7 x 25.4 x 66 cm (10 1/8 x 10 x 26 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware with dark brown Albany slip glaze

On View

Link between: Folk Art, and Gothic Revival (237.1)





Made at an unknown pottery in Medford, Massachusetts, around 1840, this pitcher is still being studied and provokes challenging conversations. It has been thought to be a posthumous depiction of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the former slave who led the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), the first successful war for independence by enslaved people in the Americas. Although L’Ouverture never sat for a portrait in his own lifetime, widely circulated prints mythologized him alternatively as a powerful hero and a ruthless war lord. The vessel’s exaggerated facial features derive from stereotypical images of black people in early 19th-century popular culture.


By 2000, collection of Tony and Marie Shank, Marion, South Carolina; December 2000, sold by the Shanks to James P. and Susan C. Witkowski, Camden, South Carolina; November 2016, sold by the Witkowskis to the MFA. (Accession date: November 9, 2016)

Credit Line

Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection, Gallery Instructor 50th Anniversary Fund, John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund, and partial gift of Susan and James Witkowski