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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

LaForme and Brother, active 1850–1854
Sugar Bowl, Part of Sugar Bowl and Creamer set
c. 1850–55, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

5 5/8 x 3 5/8 x 8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Renaud, Jr.

Arts of North America

Slaves who made sugar led very different lives than their owners. The Labatt family of Louisiana owned this silver dish, which would have held sugar to sweeten the drinks of their friends and family. This elegant dish reflected the refinement and elite status of the family. Many wealthy Louisiana families owned plantations that produced sugar using slave labor.

Sugar was the most important crop of the New World. It drove the African slave trade and intensified African slavery throughout the Americas. Sugar cultivation was possibly the most intense form of slavery because of the speed and strength required to harvest and purify the sugar. For nearly 18 hours a day, slaves would cut and stack sugar cane. Slaves’ lives on sugar plantations was difficult and demanding. This dish, with all its beauty, also serves as a reminder of the price of luxury paid in the sweat and blood of slaves.

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