The White Captive

Artist: Erastus Dow Palmer (American, Pompey, New York 1817–1904 Albany, New York)

Date: 1857–58; carved 1858–59

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: 65 x 20 1/4 x 17 in. (165.1 x 51.4 x 43.2 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Bequest of Hamilton Fish, 1894

Accession Number: 94.9.3


The White Captive portrays a young woman who has been abducted in her sleep (her nightgown hangs from the tree trunk) and held captive by American Indians. Bound at the wrists, she clenches her left fist behind her back in defiance. Palmer was commended for his choice of a “thoroughly American” subject, which consciously alluded to ongoing frontier skirmishes between Indians and white pioneers. In 1859 the marble went on view in New York, and the exhibition, along with that of Frederic Edwin Church’s Heart of the Andes, emerged as the high point of that autumn’s art season.