NEW YORK—William Howard literally put his life into his work. Nearly 150 years ago, he made two hand-crafted desks, secretary-style treasures with pictographic details representing the many tools and utensils he used everyday.
Howard, a craftsman and farm laborer, was a Mississippi slave. He worked at Kirkwood Plantation for William McWillie, who served as governor of the state from 1857 to 1859, and his wife Catherine. After he was a free man, Howard remained at Kirkwood and built both furniture pieces circa 1870.
The one-of-a-kind plantation desks are now sought after-antiques held by Northeast galleries. Howard created two sculptural objects with historic, anthropologic and aesthetic value.
The larger of the two is at Ricco/Maresca, a New York gallery that specializes in “the art of self-taught masters working outside the historical mainstream.” Frank Maresca said he has been aware of the desk for more than 20 years and finally acquired it three days before displaying it at The Metro Show over the weekend.
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