The Old Plantation

Painter: probably John Rose

Year: 1785-1790

For many years, scholars considered The Old Plantation to be the most important depiction of life on the plantation. They assumed that the painter must have had intimate, and unprecedented access to a slave community to have so carefully rendered slaves dancing the pat juba to music played on African-inflected instruments; some scholars went so far to suggest that he may have been even been a slave. Nope. Recent scholarship suggests that John Rose, a South Carolina rice planter, enslaved and painted the people depicted in this watercolor. Plantations were complex geopolitical entities.