Earthenware plate with engraved transfer of scene from Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin- 'Eva Wreathing Tom'



This plate is part of a group of four glazed Earthenware plates with engraved transfers of scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe's ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’. Published in 1853, the novel was extremely popular throughout the nineteenth century. It inspired various spin-off series, and it is broadly known for its antislavery themes. Subsequently, a great deal of visual material culture has been produced that depicts key scenes from the novel, including this series of plates. Scenes are bordered in a floral garland pattern, circa 1855-65. This plate, titled ‘Eva Wreathing Tom’, depicts a key moment that reflects on the ways in which racism manifests in the American South in the novel. The plate shows Eva ‘wreathing’ Tom with roses, placing the wreath around his neck. In the novel, the moment is disrupted by the arrival of Augustine and Ophelia St. Clare, with the latter expressing clear disapproval of the fact that Augustine allows Eva to play with Tom in such a friendly way. Augustine responds using a problematic metaphor that compares Eva playing with Tom to a large dog, which he contends Ophelia would have no problem with, to highlight her racism. He uses this opportunity to highlight her problematic antislavery values that are deeply troubling and contradictory. For example, she wants to free enslaved people, but only under the condition that they are sent back to Africa for missionaries to reform. Here, we see the complex ways in which ideas surrounding abolition intersected with racism, generating problematic perspectives amongst supposed abolitionists. Scenes on other plates include: Poor Boy 'They Have Sold You' but Your Mother Will Save You Yet; Little Ava Converting Topsy; Tom and Eva: Your Little Child is Your Only True Democrat.