Dressing for the Carnival

Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine)

Date: 1877

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 20 x 30in. (50.8 x 76.2cm)
Framed: 31 9/16 × 41 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (80.1 × 105.4 × 14.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Amelia B. Lazarus Fund, 1922

Accession Number: 22.220


This is one of several scenes Homer painted after visiting Petersburg, Virginia, in the mid-1870s. The interweaving of cultural traditions by African Americans after emancipation is suggested by the central figure’s costume. Onto the traditional raiment of Harlequin, the clown and social outcast of European comic theater, a woman is sewing strips of cloth that derived from African ceremonial dress and from the slave festival of Jonkonnu. After the Civil War, aspects of Jonkonnu were often incorporated into Independence Day celebrations—to which the painting’s original title, Sketch—4th of July in Virginia, referred.