Indian Girl, or The Dawn of Christianity

Erastus Dow Palmer American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 759

In a letter to his patron Hamilton Fish, Palmer outlined the symbolic program for The Indian Girl, or The Dawn of Christianity: "A young Indian Maiden wandering listlessly in her native forest gathering bird-plumes finds a crucifix, which impressive emblem she, seeing for the first time, gazes upon with wonder and compassion." Palmer directed the seminude girl’s attention toward the found object, which she cradles in her elevated right hand. Her left hand, holding the forgotten feathers, rests limply at her side. The statue reflects the colonizing viewpoint that Indigenous conversion to Christianity promoted broader assimilation to Euro-American cultural practices.

Read a Native Perspective on this work.

Indian Girl, or The Dawn of Christianity, Erastus Dow Palmer (American, Pompey, New York 1817–1904 Albany, New York), Marble, American

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