The Drop Sinister

This painting has been haunting me.

"The Drop Sinister - What Shall We Do With it?" by Harry Willson Watrous

We saw it this weekend at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and I took a picture of it because it struck a chord with me, although I didn’t really stop to consider which chord had been struck. The plaque next to the painting said that it is the first known portrait of an American interracial family, and aside from noticing that the family looked very unhappy, I didn’t give it much thought.

It was only when I was uploading my pictures to my computer and idly mulling over the title of the work that I realized what it was about the painting that had hit me in the museum: The “drop” to which the title referred was blood. In particular, the African blood of the little girl. That chilled me: Watrous was saying that part of the little girl’s genetic make-up was sinister. Was he a racist? Or was he making a point? I dropped everything and started Googling.

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