Trade and Commodities
Looking at the Chazen Museum’s collection, many objects relate to sugar, coffee, and silver—all driving forces of the transatlantic slave trade. The enslaved peoples forced to harvest and produce sugar were the same enslaved peoples barred from enjoying the sugar bowls and silver tongs that sit in the Chazen collection. Like sugar, silver and coffee were a product of the slave economy, yet luxuries many enslaved Black people could not afford. Stripping away the associations these household items evoke of elegance and beauty, one can see embedded the oppressive labor and injustice that brought them to fruition.
Unknown (American), Coffee Pot, Silver, 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 5/16 in, 2018.23.
Coffee was a highly commodified drink enjoyed in both busy public coffee houses and at home. The silver pot and the drink it contained draws connection to slave labor and the capitalistic luxuries that are obtained through inhumane ways. This expensive object also makes you think about the disadvantaged who often served the wealthy.
Hester Bateman, Sugar Tongs, Silver, 1789-90. 5 3/8 x 1 1/4 x 7/16 in, 2018.29.3.
Craftswoman Hester Bateman was a silversmith who successfully ran her family business for 30 years after her husband died. The use of these tongs grew from the booming sugar industry driven by enslaved labor in European colonies of the New World. Such tongs were part of the specialized equipment used for the serving of tea.
Painting, Village of Olinda
|Frans Jansz. Post (Dutch, ca. 1612 – 1680), Painting, Village of Olinda (Brazil), 1660. 32 x 51 in., 13.1.16.|
Originally a center for the Dutch-controlled Brazilian sugarcane industry, this painting depicts the pictorial landscape of Olinda, Brazil. However, the painting drastically withholds reference to the large population of African slaves that were responsible for the economic importance of this port town. The artist Franz Jansz. Post was a well-collected Dutch painter and first European to paint landscapes of the Americas, especially colonial Dutch Brazil.
Unknown (Chinese), Punch bowl, Porcelain, c. 1785 6 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. diam., 1974.92.
Generally holding a popular rum, sugar, and fruit juice drink, this bowl’s ornamentation depicts growing global connections. While the illustration promotes the strength of these countries, it also reminds us of the international slave and sugar trade that allow their economies to grow.