Mar 25, 2021 - Sale 2562

Sale 2562 - Lot 51

Price Realized: $ 688
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 500 - $ 750
(ART.) French Johnson, artist. Folk art drawings done by a Virginia farm hand. 3 pencil and ink drawings, one with hand coloring, on one side of a sheet of stationery, 8 x 10 inches; folds, foxing and toning, minimal wear. Rosendale Plantation, VA, 1881

Additional Details

These sketches are titled in manuscript as "French Johnson drawing" and captioned below: "A colored man French Johnson draw these, a brother of William Mayes who was hired with his family at Rosendale 1881."

One drawing features an elephant, captioned "Shoe will tak place on the 14 of Feber, elephant good by." Elephants were not a regular sight in Virginia during this period, but a Sells elephant show did pass through nearby Woodstock on 1 October 1878.

Next is an elaborate drawing of a calliope (or steam piano) captioned "Steem par-an-ner and four horse." Calliopes and elephants were both mainstays of touring circuses.

Below it are two men on horseback (one chugging from a whiskey jug), captioned "Mr. Worke Williamson" and "Mr. Tommas Jackson." Williamson calls out "Hold on, Tom, don't drink it all up, for I am coming, I want a drink, yes, for I am drunk now." Could that represent the fallen Confederate cavalryman, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson? Why not?

French Johnson (born circa 1859) appears as a Black farm laborer in the 1880 census for Lee Township in Shenandoah County, VA, quite near the Rosendale Plantation in New Market. He was possibly the same French Johnson (born circa 1861 in Virginia) who appeared as a gardener in Malden, MA in 1900, and died there in 1904.