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Portrait of a Black teenage boy and three white children positioned against a Louisiana landscape.
New Acquisition

Bélizaire and the Frey Children

12 ottobre 2023–Ongoing
Free with Museum admission

Bélizaire and the Frey Children is a rare American portrait of an enslaved Black subject depicted with the family of his enslaver. Attributed to the leading French émigré portraitist working in 1830s–50s New Orleans, the painting illuminates the complex relationships of intimacy and inhumanity that defined domestic enslavement. The portrait’s later history also reveals the consequential afterlives of slavery. At the turn of the twentieth century, the prominent depiction of the enslaved Afro-Creole teenager, Bélizaire (ca. 1822–after 1860), who is positioned against a Louisiana landscape above the three young Frey siblings presumably in his care, was deliberately concealed—likely by a member of the Frey family. His figure was only revealed after a careful conservation treatment. Archival research has also recovered the identities and some of the histories of all four subjects. Bélizaire survived the Civil War and lived to experience freedom. Both Frey sisters died the same year the portrait was painted, their brother some nine years later.

Attributed to Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans (Franco-American, Maastricht (then under French rule) 1801–1888 Paris). Bélizaire and the Frey Children, ca. 1837. Oil on canvas. 47 1/4 × 36 1/4 in. (120 × 92.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, Brooke Russell Astor Bequest, Friends of the American Wing Fund, Muriel J. Kogan Bequest, and funds from various donors, 2023. 2023.317

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Dates
12 ottobre 2023–Ongoing
Free with Museum admission
Portrait of a Black teenage boy and three white children positioned against a Louisiana landscape.