Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This genre painting depicts Black men and women dancing in the kitchen of a resort. The painting was created during slavery in America.
- In the 1800s White Sulphur Springs was one of the most popular summer destinations in the South. It was located in the mountains of Virginia (in what is now Greenbrier County, West Virginia).
- Wealthy plantation owners and their families visited the resort to soak in the mineral spas and escape the heat and humidity. They often brought their household servants with them.
- The people depicted in this painting may have been celebrating a wedding. They were most likely household servants of plantation owners who were staying at the resort.
- Christian Friedrich Mayr was a German-American artist known for his portraits and genre paintings. He created this painting during a visit to White Sulphur Springs in 1838.
- Mayr depicted each person in this painting as a unique individual at a time when most images of Black people were racist caricatures.
This is a genre painting, or a work of art that depicts a scene from everyday life. It features images of Black men and women dancing in the kitchen of a resort. The white attire worn by the dancing couple may indicate that this was a wedding celebration. The artist depicted each person in the painting as a unique individual. Most images of Black people created at the time were racist caricatures that exaggerated their features in a mocking way. A scene depicting the private lives of Black individuals was rare in the pre-Civil War South.
The setting for this painting is the kitchen of a resort in Virginia. White Sulphur Springs was a popular summer destination for wealthy, white plantation-owning families in the 1800s. The people depicted in this scene were most likely household servants who had accompanied these families. Slave owners often brought their favorite servants with them to the resort. Sometimes they sponsored on-site social events for their servants.
Christian Friedrich Mayr was a German-American artist known for his portraits and genre paintings.
He observed and painted this scene when he visited White Sulphur Springs in 1838. Mayr also worked in daguerreotype, an early version of photography.
Resources for Teachers
- Explore a lesson plan based on this painting.
- Read a paragraph about Christian Friedrich Mayr.
- Read an encyclopedia entry about White Sulphur Springs.
- Watch a video about racist caricatures.
Resources for Students