Walters Art Museum Uncovers Photo of 19th-Century African-American Sculptor


The Walters Art Museum recently discovered a previously unknown photograph of Mary Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907), the first 19th-century African American sculptor to receive international recognition.

Prior to this discovery, there existed only seven known photographs of Lewis, all taken at the same sitting in Chicago around 1868 by photographer Henry Rocher. This previously unknown image was shot in Rome between 1874-76 by the prestigious Italian studio of Fratelli D’Alessandri, photographer of Pope Pius IX. It sheds new light on the artist and her commitment to using photography to promote her image. The worn 4 x 2.5” photograph was the 19th-century equivalent of a visiting or calling card called a carte-de-visite or cdv.

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