Daniel Sousa and Amanda Lange Discuss Stories of Rebellion and Revolution in Historic Deerfield’s Ceramics Collection
by Carrie Greif
For the first event in the Decorative Arts Trust’s new Trust Talks series, we were thrilled to present Historic Deerfield’s Assistant Curator Daniel Sousa and Curatorial Department Director Amanda Lange.
Trust Talks is a new monthly lecture series that features emerging scholars sharing and discussing their exciting new research with a mentor in the field. The hour-long virtual program includes a lecture, conversation, and Q&A session with the program participants.
For this virtual lecture, Dan reflected on Deerfield’s esteemed ceramics collection to draw upon historic moments of tumultuous uncertainty and to highlight objects that brought people together. With this lecture, titled If Pots Could Talk: Stories of Revolution and Rebellion, Dan unraveled the stories behind the images applied to ceramics to illuminate 18th-century perspectives.
Dan presented two incredible objects during his lecture: a punchbowl and a jug. Though similar, each featuring black glazes with gilt figural ornament, these objects express two opposing perspectives. The punchbowl aligns with Jacobite sympathies, and the jug expresses allegiance to the British crown. Dan used these objects to illuminate the unique perspectives of these adversaries after the decisive anti-Jacobite victory in the 1746 Battle of Culloden in Scotland.
Amanda Lange then led the conversation with a fascinating discussion of a 1778 transfer-printed plate featuring a satirical image that alludes to British dissatisfaction with the war in America. After revealing the history of the plate’s cunning visual references, Amanda shared the wonderful story of uncovering the mystery behind the ornament on another object: a Whatley stoneware jug. Made by Thomas Crafts, the jug’s sgraffito design of a boat was identified by one of Deerfield’s summer fellows. We now know that jug is depicting a vessel from a failed rebellion in upper Canada, the Mackenzie rebellion, which occurred in 1837-1838.
The presentation concluded with Dan and Amanda conversing about their love of objects, discussing curatorial practices, and answering questions from the audience. It was a timely discussion that illustrated the power of objects to, paraphrasing what Dan said, provide historical insight you can’t get from a book.
Dan Sousa was the Decorative Arts Trust Curatorial Intern at Historic Deerfield before he became an assistant curator, which Amanda Lange mentioned during the program. “I wanted to thank the Decorative Arts Trust for awarding us a Decorative Arts Trust Internship which brought us Dan Sousa,” Amanda shared. “I have learned a tremendous amount from him. The mentor/mentee relationship goes both ways. He asks a lot of questions, and I don’t have his background training in American history, so he asks a lot of questions of objects that I might not even think of.”
Trust members also saw Dan speak at the Colonial Williamsburg 72nd Annual Antiques Forum, where he was a Carolyn and Michael McNamara Young Scholar Lecturer and presented The Furniture of Daniel Clay, 1795-1829.
Check the Decorative Arts Trust’s calendar of events for upcoming Trust Talk online programs and events in other series we are creating. We also encourage those interested to sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. The Trust appreciates the support of members and donors who allow us to develop programs.
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Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.