Jose Formoso Reyes Basket – Rare hanging wall basket with hinged lid


Attributed to JOSE FORMOSO REYES (1902-1980) Nantucket, Massachusetts, circa 1945
Oak, rattan, leather, string, original resin-based finish, 8 ½ x 8 ½ x 8 inches

According to Robert Shaw, American Baskets (New York, 2000), pp. 150-151: “By the 1930s, however, a handful of makers were keeping the craft alive. By far the most important of these was Clinton Mitchell “Mitchy” Ray, whose father and grandfather had also been basket makers. Ray continued to make baskets through the 1940s; by then he was almost single-handedly maintaining the tradition and planning for its future. After World War II, Ray taught the craft to a Harvard-educated Filipino named Jose Formoso Reyes.

By coincidence or destiny, Reyes had worked with rattan while living in the Philippines and had supplemented his income by repairing cane and rush chair seat, so rattan basketry was a logical next step. In the late 1940s, Reyes introduced a new form of Nantucket basket, a covered lady’s handbag that he called a friendship basket. These baskets, made with rattan ribs and covers to which Reyes added decorative carved ivory or ebony, are now the most familiar and often replicated Nantucket basket form.”  Jose Formoso Reyes is recognized as the last of the great basket makers from the classic age on Nantucket, and an innovator within the genre.

This rare hanging wall basket with hinged lid is only the second one of this form known to us.

Examples of the classic baskets made by Reyes are illustrated and discussed in Katherine and Edgar Seeler, Nantucket Lightship Baskets(Nantucket, 1972), pp. 114-118; Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. and Mary Grace Carpenter, The Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket (New York, 1987), pp. 193-195; Martha R. Lawrence, Lightship Baskets of Nantucket (West Chester, PA, 1990), pp. 60-71; David H. Wood, The Lightship Baskets of Nantucket, A Continuing Craft (Nantucket, MA, 1994), p. 31, and Robert Shaw, American Baskets, A Cultural History of a Domestic Art (New York, 2000), pp. 148-151.

The personal collection of Marguerite and Arthur Riordan, Stonington, Connecticut.

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