[Portrait of a Youth]

Artist: Unknown (American)

Date: 1850–60s

Medium: Salted paper print from glass negative

Dimensions: Image: 31.8 x 27.2 cm (12 1/2 x 10 11/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.88


This highly unusual formal portrait of a young African-American boy with the studied composure of a visiting prince came to light in a Boston auction in the 1980s. As the spiritual center of the abolitionist movement, Boston is a likely source for this large salted paper print. The photographer presents his sitter as destined for prominence, an apt embodiment of the abolitionist cause. The carefully posed composition and the size of the picture suggest the work of one of Boston's finest photographers: John Adams Whipple, James Wallace Black, or the firm of Southworth & Hawes.