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Palace door

ilekun aafin
Maker:
Olowe of Ise, ca. 1875-ca. 1938
Yoruba peoples
Medium:
Wood, traces of pigment
Dimensions:
H x W x D: 207 x 88 x 15.9 cm (81 1/2 x 34 5/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Type:
Architectural Element
Geography:
Ise, Ekiti region, Nigeria
Date:
ca. 1904-1910
Topic:
Commemorative
Leadership
equestrian
mother and child
musical instrument
weapon
horse
male
female
Credit Line:
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Kuhn
Object number:
88-13-1
Label Text:
Olowe of Ise is considered by many art historians and art collectors to be the most important Yoruba artist of the 20th century. Active in the first quarter of the century, he designed and carved architectural sculptures for several palaces in the Ekiti region of Yorubaland. His work first became known in Europe when an elaborately carved and painted door and lintel ensemble he had created for the palace of the Ogoga (king) of Ikere was displayed at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London. Considered by experts in the British Museum to be "the finest piece of West African carving that has ever reached England," the door and its lintel were acquired for that museum's collection in exchange for a British-made throne.
Olowe's innovative approach to carving the palace doors stands apart from Yoruba low relief work, which typically is flat and even. Olowe, however, carved in exceedingly high and uneven relief. The figures on this panel, the right side of a door, project in profile from the background by as much as 10 centimeters (approximately 4 inches), and the upper bodies of some figures are carved completely in the round. Instead of using static, frontal poses, Olowe turned the heads of the figures in opposition to their bodies to face the viewer. He crossed their legs to suggest walking or dancing motions.
The panel shown here commemorates an actual event. At the end of the 19th century the Arinjale (king) of Ise received the first British traveling commissioners for the Ondo Province. The left side of the door (in a private collection) depicts Major W. R. Reeve-Tucker, the first traveling commissioner, and Captain W. G. Ambrose, his successor, and their entourage of African porters, soldiers, prisoners and British missionaries.
This right panel depicts the Yoruba king and his entourage. The Arinjale, who is mounted on a horse and wears a conical crown surmounted by a bird, is seen in the second register. He is accompanied by a court messenger and a musician. Royal wives and children, guards, priests and others from the palace appear in successive registers. The decapitated female figure in the lowest register is a human sacrifice, an act committed on the rarest occasions to ensure the survival of the community. Originally three vultures pecked at the female's eyes, abdomen and feet; now only the feet of the birds remain. The faces carved on two columns along the length of the door may represent war captives or royal ancestors.
Olowe carved the palace door from iroko, an iron-hard wood highly valued in his time and still used in modern building construction and furniture making. No photograph of Olowe has been located, but his oriki, or chanted attributes, claims that he was handsome and so strong that he could carve iroko wood "as though it were as soft as a calabash."
See more items in:
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition:
ongoing exhibition
On View:
NMAfA, Second Level Concourse
Data Source:
National Museum of African Art
Visitor Tag(s):

Men Before Banquet Table [graphic]

Creator:
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933
Subject:
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970
Islamic Archives
Physical description:
1 glass negative : b&w ; 18 cm. x 12.8 cm
Type:
Glass negatives
Place:
Asia
Iran
Date:
1880-1900
Topic:
Clothing and dress
Headgear
Rites and ceremonies
Local number:
FSA A.4 2.12.GN.16.08
Restrictions:
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu
Notes:
Title and summary note are provided by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan, FSg curatorial research specialist.
Antoin Sevruguin is one of the early pioneers of commercial photography in Iran. He arrived in Iran from Tbilisi, Georgia in the mid 1870s to set up shop in Ala al-Dawla street in Tehran. From the early days, Sevruguin's studio was trusted both by the Qajar court and by foreign visitors to Iran. Highly regarded for their artistic ingenuity outside Iran, Sevruguin's photographs of 'ethnic types,' architecture and landscape, and depictions of daily life of Tehran found their way into foreign travelogues, magazines and books. As such, he stands alone in a relatively large group of early Iranian photographers for being recognized and celebrated outside the boundaries of the country. Antoin Sevruguin passed away in 1933, leaving behind only a fraction of his large collection of glass negatives, which is currently in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Summary:
- Handwritten number (inked, probably by Antoin Sevruguin) reads, "1029."
- Handwritten information on slip of paper (from a 1943-1944 cash book, produced by the Bathni Brothers, Tehran) reads, "Nasr ed Din + Court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information]
- Myron Bement Smith handwritten caption in English reads, "47.P; Box 16.8: Nasr ud Din and court." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P: Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran]
Cite as:
Myron Bement Smith Collection: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Gift of Katherine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985
See more items in:
Myron Bement Smith collection 1899-1962
Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.12: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

Print

Subject:
Paul Jones, Akimel O'odham (Pima)
Format:
Silver gelatin print
Dimensions:
3.25 x 5.5 in.
Culture/People:
Akimel O'odham (Pima)
Place:
Blackwater, Gila River Reservation; Pinal County; Arizona; USA
Date Created:
January 07, 1919
Catalog Number:
P00372
Collection History:
Edward H. Davis owned a ranch outside San Diego, California, and became fascinated with local Indian people. The collection of Native objects he developed attracted the attention of George Heye, who purchased many items from Davis and hired him as a field collector in 1916. Photographs by Davis from southern California and northern Mexico probably accompanied the objects he sold to or collected for MAI.
Description:
Sitting outside an adobe house, Paul Jones plays the love flute. He wears a cloth shirt with buttons, kerchief, and trousers.
See more items in:
Photographic Collections
Data Source:
National Museum of the American Indian
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Ales Hrdlicka photograph collection relating to the Panama-California Exposition, 1912-1917

Creator:
Hrdlička, Aleš 1869-1943
Subject:
United States National Museum
Royal College of Surgeons in London
American Museum of Natural History
Panama-California Exposition (1915-1916 : San Diego, Calif.)
Physical description:
circa 595 negatives : glass and nitrate
Culture:
Mongols depicted
Teton Indians depicted
Hopi Indians depicted
Jicarilla Indians depicted
Navajo Indians depicted
Osage Indians depicted
Pueblo Indians depicted
Omaha Indians depicted
Indians of North America Great Plains
Indians of North America Southwest, New
Type:
Photographs
Collection descriptions
Date:
1912
1912-1917
Topic:
Physical anthropology
Local number:
NAA Photo Lot 73-26B
Notes:
Ales Hrdlicka (1869-1943) was born in Czechoslovakia and came to the United States at the age of thirteen. Originally trained in medicine, he developed interest in physical anthropology while working with the New York State hospitals and researching with the Department of Anthropology in the Pathological Institute of the New York State hospitals. Hrdlicka joined the Hyde Expeditions to the American Southwest and made his own expeditions to study physical characteristics of Southwest tribes. In 1903, he was appointed head of the United States National Museum's newly formed Division of Physical Anthropology.
In 1912, Hrdlicka planned and directed seven expeditions as part of the preparation of physical anthropology exhibits for the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego, California (1915). Part of his plans for exhibition included casts and busts of people from around the world and he hired sculptor Frank Micka to make many of the busts for the exposition. While in the field to make his casts, Micka also took front and profile photographs of subjects. Hrdlicka made his own trip to photograph the people in Urga, Mongolia, making 360 images of Mongolians and some Tibetans in preparation for busts to be displayed at the exposition.
Summary:
The bulk of the collection consists of photographs commissioned by Ales Hrdlicka for the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, collected 1912-1914. They include front and profile portraits of Mongols in Urga, Mongolia, as well as Apache, Teton, Hopi, Navajo, Omaha, Osage, and Pueblo Indians. There are some full-length portraits of Apaches and views of Southwest Indian dwellings, activities, and a dance. The collection also includes some images of United States National Museum exhibits and items from the USNM, American Museum of Natural History, and the Royal College of Surgeons in London, some of which were made by Hrdlicka in 1917.
Cite as:
Photo lot 73-26B, Ales Hrdlicka photograph collection relating to the Panama-California Exposition, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Data Source:
National Anthropological Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

Additional Online Media:

224 Jinriki, ca. 1880 - 1890. [graphic]

Collector:
Rosin, Henry D Dr
Rosin, Nancy
Physical description:
1 photographic print : hand coloring ; image 19.4 x 24.3 cm., on mount 20.7 x 25.7 cm
Type:
Photographs
Photographic prints
Place:
Japan
Asia
Date:
ca 1880 - 1890
Ca. 1880 - 1890
19th century
Topic:
Photography
Rickshaw men
Rickshaws
Transportation
Women
Local number:
FSA A1999.35.004
Notes:
Title taken from print.
The photographer's original identification number, 224, and original title, Jinriki, are printed in the bottom right corner.
Summary:
Two young women, one with an umbrella, are seated in a jinriki-sha (rickshaw) pulled by a jinriki (rickshaw driver). An assistant brings up the rear of the jinriki-sha. Outdoor setting in leafy area.
Photographer unidentified.
Cite as:
Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Partial purchase and gift of Henry and Nancy Rosin, 1999-2001
See more items in:
Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan 1860 - ca. 1900
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

Vernon Smith in Alaska

Subject:
Smith, Vernon B.
Physical description:
1 photographic print : b&w ; 9 x 6 cm.
Type:
Photographs
Date:
1937 Jul 13
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)6279
Summary:
Photo shows Smith standing on the walkway in front of a house with a porch.
Penciled on verso: Alaska; V. Smith.
Stamped on verso: July 13, 1937.
Separate stamp on verso (smudged): M. Motte Studio 3 [or M. Hotte Studio 3?]
See more items in:
Vernon Smith papers, 1932-1941
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
Visitor Tag(s):

Wild Man on Third Ave.

Artist:
Ralston Crawford, American, b. St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1906–1978
Medium:
Photograph
Type:
Photograph
Credit Line:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, The Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest, 1981
Accession Number:
86.1162
See more items in:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection
School:
Precisionism
Data Source:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Visitor Tag(s):

Purse

Medium:
Medium: leather Technique: stamped
Type:
costume & accessories
Purse
Made in:
New York, USA
Date:
18th century
Credit Line:
Gift of Anonymous Donor in memory of Serbella Moores
Accession Number:
1962-190-1
Catalogue Status:
Research in Progress
Description:
Rectangular wallet, stamped leather, in elaborate swirling lines making up undecipherable initials on one side and the words NEW YORK on the other side.
See more items in:
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collection
Textiles Department
Data Source:
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
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Ulysses S. Grant

Artist:
Unidentified Artist
Sitter:
Ulysses Simpson Grant, 27 Apr 1822 - 23 Jul 1885
Medium:
Tintype copy of original daguerreotype
Dimensions:
Image: 15.7 x 12 cm (6 3/16 x 4 3/4")
Type:
Photograph
Date:
c. 1865 copy after c. 1847 original
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Ring
Clothing & Apparel\Accouterment\Epaulet
Cased object
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Natural Resources\Agriculturist\Farmer
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Politics and Government\Cabinet Member\Secretary of War
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Military and Intelligence\Army\Officer\Civil War
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Military and Intelligence\Army\Officer\General
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Politics and Government\President of US
Ulysses Simpson Grant: Congressional Gold Medal
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Connor
Object number:
S/NPG.79.4
Exhibition Label:
One of the earliest known photographs of Ulysses S. Grant, this tintype likely depicts him after his graduation from West Point Military Academy in 1843. Known for his distaste for military garb, Grant is atypically pictured clean-shaven and in stiff, ornamented military attire. Grant, who wished to end his military career after graduation, planned to become a mathematics professor and marry his sweetheart, Julia Dent. However, in 1844, as war with Mexico became inevitable, he was forced to relinquish his dream of a quiet, professorial life and postpone his marriage. Grant was anxious throughout the conflict to return home. This unaffected image portrays Grant simply as a young lieutenant, more concerned with the toils of love than of military and war.
Ulysses S. Grant
Una de las primeras fotografías conocidas de Ulysses S. Grant, este ferrotipo probablemente lo muestra después de su graduación de West Point Military Academy en 1843. Conocido por su rechazo a los atuendos militares, es raro observar a Grant recién afeitado y tieso en sus decorados atavíos militares. Grant, quien deseaba terminar su carrera militar después de la graduación, planeaba ser profesor de matemáticas y casarse con su novia, Julia Dent. Sin embargo, en 1844, cuando la guerra contra México se volvió inevitable, fue obligado a abandonar su sueño de una calma vida profesional y postergar su matrimonio. Durante todo el conflicto, Grant estaba ansioso por volver a su hogar. Esta imagen espontanea muestra a Grant como un joven teniente, más interesado por los problemas del amor que por los de los militares y la guerra.
Fotógrafo no identificado
Ferrotipo, c. 1847–51
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; donación del señor Ralph Connor y su señora
See more items in:
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Data Source:
National Portrait Gallery
Visitor Tag(s):

Waiting For McGinley

Artist:
Andrew Wyeth, American, b. Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1917–2009
Medium:
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Dimensions:
15 1/16 X 22 IN. (38.2 X 55.8 CM.)
Type:
Painting
Date:
(1962)
Credit Line:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966
Accession Number:
66.5592
Provenance:
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, to 21 June 1962
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York, 21 June 1962-17 May 1966
Gift of Joseph H. HIrshhorn, 1966
Exhibition History:
ALBRIGHT-KNOX ART GALLERY, Buffalo, New York. Andrew Wyeth: Temperas, Watercolors, and Drawings, 2 November-9 December 1962, no. 98.
TEMPLE B'NAI SHOLOM, Rockville Center, New York. Fourth Annual Exhibition, 31 March-3 April 1963, no. 39.
THE PENNYSLVANIA ACADEMY OF THE FINE ARTS, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Andrew Wyeth Retrospective, 8 October-27 November 1966, no. 181. Tour: BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART, Baltimore, Maryland, 13 December 1966-22 January 1967; WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, New York. 14 February-2 April 1967; THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, 21 April-June.
HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, Washington, DC. "Inaugural Exhibition," 4 October 1974-15 September 1975, fig. 878, pp. 573, 759.
GREENVILLE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART, Greenville, South Carolina. Andrew Wyeth in Southern Collections, 1 February-31 May 1978, no. 30.
CANTON ART INSTITUTE, Canton, Ohio. Andrew Wyeth from Public and Private Collections, 15 September-3 November 1985.
MISSISSIPPI MUSEUM OF ART, "Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends" 3 February 2001 - 13 May 2001. TOUR: GREENVILLE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART, SC. 2 June 2001 - 27 August 2001.
NAPLES MUSEUM OF ART, Naples, Florida. "Andrew Wyeth & Family" 21 January 2006 - 14 May 2006.
Published References:
LERNER, ABRAM, et al. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974): 573, 759, fig. 878.
GOLDSTEIN, NATHAN. Painting: Visual and Technical Fundamentals (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1979): 68.
See more items in:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection
School:
American Contemporary Realism
Data Source:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Visitor Tag(s):

Sunnyside [photoprint]

Creator:
National Historic Landmark
Irving, Washington
Sleepy Hollow Restorations
Bolton, Robert, Rev
Van Tassel, Baltus
Hewitt, Arthur
Architect:
Harvey, George
Physical description:
1 photoprint: b&w ; 3 x 5 in
Type:
Projected media
Place:
United States of America, New York, Westchester County, Greenburgh, Tarrytown
New York (State)
Tarrytown
Date:
1909
03/30/1909
Topic:
Spring
Porticoes
Wisteria
Dogs
Men
Local number:
NY140004
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens
Visitor Tag(s):

Field Work in Nigeria: Two young Men with Necklace and Camera in Hand

Creator:
Turner, Lorenzo Dow 1890-1972
Subject:
Turner, Lorenzo Dow
Physical description:
1 photographic negative : b&w; 35mm
Type:
Negatives
Place:
Africa
Nigeria
Date:
1951
Topic:
Portrait photography
Clothing and dress
Headdresses--headgear
Local number:
ACMA LDT-N-R36-1174
Notes:
Title is provided by ACMA Archives staff based on researcher's notes.
Cite as:
Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams
See more items in:
Sub-series 5.4.1: Research: Africa
Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Series 5: Photographs ca 1890-1974
Lorenzo Dow Turner papers 1895-1972
Data Source:
Anacostia Community Museum Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

Jane Freeman papers, 1904-1963

Creator:
Freeman, Jane 1871-1963
Church, Frederick S (Frederick Stuart) 1842-1924
Clifton, Walter
Physical description:
0.4 linear ft. (on partial microfilm reel)
Type:
Photographs
Collection descriptions
Scrapbooks
Illustrated letters
Date:
1904
1904-1963
Topic:
Women painters
Painters
Portrait painters
Local number:
AAA 135
AAA
AAA freejane
Notes:
Portrait painter and teacher. Born in England, Freeman studied at the Art Students League, at the Grand Chaumière, and at the Cooper Union Art School. Lived in New York, N.Y. and Pigeon Cove, Mass. Died in Park Ridge, N.J.
Summary:
Biographical material; letters received from sitters, admirers, and others, including illustrated letters from Frederick Stuart Church and Walter Clifton; a scrapbook of photographs and reproductions of Freeman's portraits; clippings; printed material; typescripts of lectures by Freeman on women in art and portrait painting; and photographs of Freeman.
See more items in:
Jane Freeman papers, 1904-1963
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
Visitor Tag(s):

Six Zulu Men with Spears, Eating Meal Around Metal Kettle Over Campfire Between Two Trees in Open Field n.d

Physical description:
1 photoprint 005 in x 004 in mounted on 005 in x 004 in
Culture:
Zulu (African people)
Type:
Photographs
Date:
nd
Local number:
NAA INV 06063100
Cite as:
DOE Africa: So Africa: Zulu: Postcards: People 06063100, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Photograph collection ca. 1860s-1960s
Data Source:
National Anthropological Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

[Profile of Croatan man] 1911

Creator:
Gill, De Lancey W
Physical description:
glass negative
Culture:
Croatan
Lumbee Indians
Indians of North America Southern States
Type:
Photographs
Date:
1911
Local number:
BAE GN 866 B
Cite as:
BAE GN 866 B, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Glass Negatives of Indians (Collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology) 1850s-1930s
Data Source:
National Anthropological Archives
Visitor Tag(s):

[Photograph marked "Regal" in a scrapbook : black and white photoprint]

Subject:
Flores Yo-yo Corporation
Duncan Yo-Yo Company
Physical description:
Silver gelatin on paper
1 item, 1.5" x 1"
Culture:
Filipino Americans 1920-1940
Type:
Photographs
Date:
1920
1940
Ca. 1920-1940
1920-1940
Topic:
Toys
Yo-yos
Filipino American businesspeople
Local number:
AC0807-0000004.tif (AC Scan)
Notes:
In Box 27, Folder 1.
Summary:
"Regal" may be Pedro Flores, a Filipino American largely responsible for the popularity of the yo-yo in the United States beginning in the 1920s; founded Flores Yo-yo Company; photographer unidentified.
Cite as:
Duncan Family Yo-yo Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Duncan Family Yo-yo Collection
Data Source:
Archives Center - NMAH
Visitor Tag(s):

Theodore M. Sullivan posing next to car

Physical description:
1 photographic print: black and white, 3 x 4.5 in
Culture:
African American
Type:
Photographic prints
Place:
Boston (Mass.)
United States
Date:
1920
Topic:
African American men
Automobiles--1910-1920
Local number:
ACMA PH2005.7002.047
Cite as:
The Sullivan Family papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Savina Martin, Dominga Martin and Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper
See more items in:
Sullivan family papers 1860-1994 bulk 1920-1960
Data Source:
Anacostia Community Museum Archives
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This high man; the life of Robert H. Goddard. With a pref. by Charles A. Lindbergh

Author:
Lehman, Milton
Subject:
Goddard, Robert Hutchings 1882-1945
Physical description:
xv, 430 p. illus., ports. 22 cm
Type:
Biography
Place:
United States
Date:
1963
[1963]
Topic:
Rocketry
Call number:
TL781.85.G57 L5
TL781.85.G57 L5
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
Visitor Tag(s):

Homer J. Livingston

Artist:
Albert Ketcham Murray, 29 Dec 1906 - 24 Mar 1992
Sitter:
Homer J. Livingston, 30 Aug 1903 - 9 May 1970
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
76.2 x 63.5cm (30 x 25")
Type:
Painting
Date:
1971
Topic:
Printed Material\Book
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair\Armchair
Interior\Library
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Bookshelf
Homer J. Livingston: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Homer J. Livingston: Business and Industry\Banker
Portrait
Credit Line:
Current Owner: First National Bank of Chicago
Object number:
2.289FNBC
See more items in:
Catalog of American Portraits
Data Source:
Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Visitor Tag(s):

Antislavery Medallion

Maker:
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons
Physical Description:
ceramic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
refined stoneware (overall material)
Object Name:
medallion
Place Made:
United Kingdom: England, Staffordshire
Date made:
after 1787
Subject:
Art
Clothing & Accessories
Government, Politics, and Reform
Slavery
Blacks
National Treasures exhibit
Related Publication:
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Publication title:
Treasures of American History online exhibition
Publication author:
National Museum of American History
Publication URL:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/treasures
Credit Line:
Lloyd E. Hawes
ID Number:
CE*68.150
Catalog number:
68.150
1987.0005.51
Accession number:
1987.0005
Description:
This medallion, first made in 1787, became a popular icon in the British movement for the abolition of the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Staffordshire pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood probably engaged sculptor Henry Webber to create the design of a kneeling slave, his hands in chains, a figure based on the cameo gemstones of antiquity. The modeler, William Hackwood, then prepared the medallion for production in Wedgwood’s black jasper against a white ground of the same ceramic paste. Above the figure the words “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER” appeal to the reason and sentiment of late-eighteenth-century men and women, disturbed by accounts of atrocities committed on the trans-Atlantic slave trade routes, and informed by abolitionist literature distributed in coffee-houses, taverns, public assembly rooms, reading societies, and private homes. The medallion expressed in material form the growing horror at the barbarous practices of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the premises upon which that trade thrived. Wedgwood produced the medallion for the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave trade, founded in 1787 by Thomas Clarkson, who in 1786 published his Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. Wedgwood was a member of the Committee – later known as the Society for the Abolition of the Slave trade - and it is likely that distribution of the medallions took place through the organization, and that Wedgwood bore the costs himself.
In America, Quaker groups were active in their opposition to the slave trade in the late seventeenth century. When British opposition emerged in the 18th century from among the non-conformist congregations - Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, and Unitarians – communication between the North American and British groups was quickly established. In 1788, Josiah Wedgwood sent a packet of his medallions to Benjamin Franklin, then president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, with the words “It gives me great pleasure to be embarked on this occasion in the same great and good cause with you, and I ardently hope for the final completion of our wishes.” Franklin wrote to Wedgwood: "I am persuaded [the medallion] may have an Effect equal to that of the best written Pamphlet in procuring favour to those oppressed people." Neither Franklin, nor Wedgwood, lived to see those wishes fulfilled.
The medallion became the emblem for the British movement carried forward by Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, leading to Parliament’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Men and women appropriated the cameo for personal ornament on snuff-box lids, shoe buckles, hair pins, pendants, and bracelets. By 1807, and before the abolition of slavery in all the British colonies in 1838, many versions of the kneeling slave found their way onto the surface of artifacts made in ceramic, metal, glass and fabric. The representation of the slave in the Wedgwood medallion carries several conflicting meanings. Here we see a man on his knees, pleading to his white masters, and perhaps to God at a time when many slaves took the Christian faith. The rhetorical question, “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER”, calls for pity, but at the same time demands a review of the black African’s place in the world as fellow human being, rather than a separate species, a status conferred upon them by slave owners and traders. The image of the kneeling slave is noble, but at the same time without threat; he kneels, and he is in chains. He may represent the literary figure of the “noble savage,” and at the same time draw forth in late 18th-century white men and women their sense of magnanimity. Materially, the medallion underscores the message with the figure rendered in black on a white, or in some versions a pale straw-colored background.
Against fierce opposition, and for all their contradictions, hypocrisies, and ill-informed sentiments, the British campaigners for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and for the abolition of slavery, were astonishingly successful in achieving their aims. Strategies like widespread petitioning, the distribution of leaflets, pamphlets, and printed images, and the production of artifacts like this medallion, established the tactics for subsequent political and social pressure groups on local, national, and now on a global scale. The printed T-shirt, badges, and mugs distributed or sold today are the descendents of the Wedgwood medallion.
Guyatt, M. “The Wedgwood Slave Medallion,” Journal of Design History, 13, no. 2 (2000): 93-105
Margolin, S. “And Freedom to the Slave”: Antislavery ceramics, 1787-1865, Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter (Hanover and London: Chipstone Foundation, 2002), pp. 80-109
Myers, S. ‘Wedgwood’s Slave Medallion and its Anti-Slavery Legacy’
Walvin, J. “British Abolitionism, 1787-1838,” Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, edited by Anthony Tibbles (London: HMSO and National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, 1994), pp. 87-95
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