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"Cigar Box" Chest

ca. 1880-1920 Unidentified painted, carved, and stained wood 19 x 12 7/8 x 6 3/8 in. (48.2 x 32.7 x 16.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.90 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 25A


Luce Center Label

“Tramp” art was created from old cigar boxes by tradesmen at the turn of the twentieth century. Craftsmen chip-carved the edges of pieces of wood and layered them together to create furniture, sculptures, and religious objects. The Crown of Thorns Construction (see 1998.84.52) is named because of the interlocking construction technique, which was supposed to represent Jesus’s crown when he was crucified (Helaine Fendelman, Tramp Art, 1975). These objects were not made by vagrants, but by traveling printers, carpenters, and cigar makers who “tramped” from city to city advertising their skills (Lynda Hartigan, Made with Passion, 1990).

Keywords

Animal - bird

decorative arts - furniture

folk art

wood