Artist: Edmonia Lewis (American, 1844–1907)

Date: 1868

Geography: Made in Rome, Italy

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: 11 5/8 × 7 1/4 × 4 7/8 in. (29.5 × 18.4 × 12.4 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Morris K. Jesup and Friends of the American Wing Funds, 2015

Accession Number: 2015.287.2


Like many American sculptors of the nineteenth century, Lewis, an artist of African American and Chippewa (Ojibwa) ancestry, worked in Rome, Italy. Her multiracial identity and gender were formative in her selection of subjects. Between 1866 and 1872 she completed a series of marble sculptures on the popular theme of Hiawatha and Minnehaha, drawn from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha (1855). These cabinet-sized busts represent the star-crossed lovers from once-warring nations (Ojibwa and Dakota), and blend an idealized treatment of form with American Indian dress and accessories.