Key Basket (Primary Title)
A unique form of American folk art, hand-tooled leather baskets were crafted almost exclusively in Virginia and North Carolina to hold the numerous heavy keys that owners required for large residences and outbuildings. Typically engagement or wedding gifts, the baskets were embossed with the bride’s initials—in this instance M.J.E.—and decorated with symbols of love, happiness, and prosperity.
This maker, known only by the initials G.F., is likely one of a handful of artisans, both white and black, who produced key baskets in antebellum Richmond. The fine stitching, stamped patterns, and inlaid colored hearts distinguish the craftsman’s individual work.
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