Key Basket (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

ca. 1830–60
Leather, embossed, appliquéd, and stitched
United States,Virginia,Richmond (possibly),
Overall: 9 × 9 × 6 in. (22.86 × 22.86 × 15.24 cm)

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.

Initialed "M. J. E." and "G. F."
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Franklin P. Watkins; Gift of Miss Miriam Hill, by exchange
Made in America, Craft Icons of the 50 States, Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California, September 26, 2015 - February 21, 2016
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.