The Five Points

Unknown Artist

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 758

Five Points was a slum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Declared in 1858 in the New York Herald a “nest of drunkenness, roguery, debauchery, vice, and pestilence,” the neighborhood was home to a combustible mix of New York’s poorest citizens: recently arrived (predominantly Irish) immigrants, unskilled laborers, and African Americans. Highlighting the district’s renowned chaos and vulgarity, the figures in the painting fight, flirt, and generally misbehave amid dilapidated buildings. Although the artist has not been identified, this image is well known, having been reproduced as a lithograph in a 1855 guide to New York City.

The Five Points, Unknown Artist, Oil on wood panel, American

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