Art/ Collection/ Art Object

[Blind Man and His Reader]

Unknown (American)
ca. 1850
Image: 9.1 x 6.6 cm (3 9/16 x 2 5/8 in.)
Case: 12 x 9.4 cm (4 3/4 x 3 11/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
Not on view
Little is known about this enigmatic portrait except that the young reader holds a copy of the New York Herald. Known for its prurient interest in scandal and crime, as well as its pioneering use of the telegraph and railroad to gather news, the newspaper, launched in 1835, had the largest circulation of any daily in the United States. One wonders what was in the news the day this photograph was made. The outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846? The discovery of gold in California in 1848? Or perhaps an article from Brighton, England, on Dr. W. Moon's system (1847) of raised type that allowed the blind to read with their fingers? Moon type, as it was known, pre-dated by more than twenty years the universal adoption in 1869 of Louis Braille's system (1834) of raised points.
Abraham Stransky (sold, Sotheby's New York, April 18, 1996, lot 38); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Howard Gilman Gallery: Inaugural Installation," October 16, 1997–February 1, 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861," September 19, 2000–January 7, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery: Selections from the Collection 73," March 28, 2017–July 31, 2017.

Voorsanger, Catherine Hoover, and John K. Howat, ed. Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861. New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. no. 175, p. 187.

The reader holds a copy of the New York Herald.
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