[Rome, Italy: Enrico Sinimberghi, 1870]. pp. Original blue-green glassine-like wrappers with titles printed in black on front wrapper. Wrappers soiled and a bit chipped and wrinkled, with noticeable chipping to bottom corners. Two ink ownership inscriptions on front wrapper. Dark stains to bottom corner of each text leaf. Very good. Item #4599
An unrecorded pamphlet extolling the artistry of a famous sculpture by African American / Afro-Caribbean / Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, likely produced at her behest as a promotional pamphlet for an American exhibition. Born to an Ojibway mother and a Haitian father, Edmonia Lewis was the first multiracial American woman artist to achieve national and international fame. Lewis was raised among her Ojibway family members and later attended art classes at Oberlin College, where she was expelled for allegedly secretly administering Spanish fly to her classmates. Lewis established herself in the expat American artists community in Rome, and her studio there became a regular stop on the Grand Tour. In Rome, Lewis was one of the few American sculptors who did her own stone carving. Race, sex, and religion permeate her work (she was a practicing Catholic most of her life). Initially funded by a brother who had been a successful gold miner in Gold Rush California, Lewis kept her Rome studio operating through commissions and self-promoted American tours and exhibitions.
The present pamphlet likely emanates from one of her American tours, specifically her 1870 Chicago exhibition and sale of one of her best-known works, "Hagar." Although printed in Rome that year, with no attribution to Lewis as publisher, the sole focus of the pamphlet being "Hagar," the only work Lewis brought on her 1870 tour suggests the direct connection. The title of the pamphlet, "Hagar as She Appeared in the Desert," is the exact wording Lewis used in her Chicago Tribune advertisement of the exhibition. Lewis would also employ the same Roman printer, Enrico Sinimberghi, to print the pamphlet she distributed to promote her sculpture Death of Cleopatra in 1878. That later pamphlet contains five newspaper reviews of Cleopatra which was Lewis showed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, an event that first brought Lewis attention from the broader American public. The present pamphlet takes a similar approach: the entire text is an excerpt of a review of Hagar from the Boston Irish-Catholic newspaper The Pilot.
More specifically, the text is excerpted from a piece written by the "Roman special Correspondent of the BOSTON PILOT," Patrick Laurence Connellan printed in the April 30, 1870 issue. Recently posted to Rome to cover the First Vatican Council, Connellan was clearly blown away by the rich array of sculpture in the city. In the florid prose of the present extract, Connellan begins his appraisal of Roman sculpture with the ancients, arguing that "a man of cultivated mind...can find an agreeable companion in a statue." Most of the text, naturally, is focused on Lewis's artistry with particular regard for her statues of Hagar and the Virgin Mary. Lewis most likely took Connellan's glowing article and created the present work as a promotional for herself.
Two ownership inscriptions on the front wrapper provide further interest to the pamphlet. Written separately but apparently in the same hand, they read: "Mrs. PJ DeF. Griffin Rome 1878" and then "to me Dec 24 1888 Geo Butler Griffin." Pastora Jacoba DeForest Griffin (1815-1894) was the daughter of David Curtis DeForest, American adventurer in Argentina. Her son George Butler Griffin (1840-1893) spent his young adulthood in Central and South America, wrote most of the Central American history published under H.H. Bancroft's name, and translated the California documents that Adolph Sutro acquired from the Royal Spanish archives in Seville. It is not hard to imagine that the Griffins, people of means and world travelers, likely acquired the present pamphlet from Edmonia Lewis's studio in Rome.
"Edmonia Lewis (1840–after 1907), sculptor, was born Mary Edmonia Lewis near Albany, New York, the daughter of a part African-American, part Chippewa woman whose name is not known, and Samuel Lewis, a black man, employed as a valet, who came to this country from the West Indies, probably from Haiti.... At Oberlin, Lewis’s studies included painting and drawing. Her earliest known work, a drawing entitled The Muse Uranus (1862), was done as an engagement present for a friend there. It is signed, as is her later work, Edmonia Lewis.... With the encouragement and support of William Lloyd Garrison, Lydia Maria Child, and the sculptor Edward Brackett, among others, Lewis established a reputation for her portrait busts and medallions of such prominent abolitionists as John Brown, Maria Weston Chapman, and Garrison himself. A clay model, now lost, of the African-American sergeant William H. Carney of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment, wounded but holding aloft the flag at Fort Wagner, was her first attempt at a full-length figure.... Following travels through England, France, and Italy, Lewis settled in a studio on the Via della Frezza in Rome. A friend of Anne Whitney, Harriet Hosmer, and Charlotte Cushman, Lewis was a member of a group of expatriate British and American women artists in Italy dubbed by Henry James 'the white marmorean flock.' About Lewis he wrote in William Wetmore Story and His Friends (1903), 'one of the sisterhood...was a negress, whose colour, picturesquely contrasting with that of her plastic material, was the pleading agent of her fame.' James’s opinion notwithstanding, Lewis’s work was much in demand. Her studio, listed with those of other artists in the best guidebooks, was a fashionable stop for Americans on the Grand Tour, many of whom ordered busts of literary or historical figures to adorn their mantels or front parlors.... Even in her depictions of Hiawatha and Minne-Ha-Ha, however, the public saw themes from African-American life. Following the Civil War, the two Indian lovers from warring tribes were thought to represent hope for reconciliation between North and South. Similarly, one of her masterworks, Hagar, an 1875 depiction of the biblical bondwoman and outcast, was understood as an allegory of the black race.... Lewis first came to the attention of the American public at large with the exhibition of her monumental statue, The Death of Cleopatra, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.... Lewis’s triumph at Philadelphia was a milestone in a career begun more than a decade earlier and pursued against enormous odds as she struggled to make a respected name for herself in the world of fine arts. A prolific artist, she is known to have executed at least sixty works, exploring themes from history, mythology, and the Bible as well as from African-American and Native American subjects; fewer than half of these sculptures have been located..... Although little is known about the later years of Lewis’s life, she was mentioned by Frederick Douglass who visited her when he and his second wife, Helen, toured Europe in 1887. They were welcomed in Rome by Lewis who lent them books on Roman history and accompanied them on day trips to museums and other sites..... Recognized today as a talented, pathbreaking, and determined pioneer in the history of African Americans and women in the fine arts, Edmonia Lewis worked in a style that combined the idealized forms of late neoclassicism with elements of realism and naturalism. Her finest body of work is thought to be her portrait busts, in particular those of Shaw (1864) and Longfellow (1871). She died in London" - American National Biography.
We could locate no other copies of the present pamphlet in OCLC or auction records, nor any mention of it in any literature we could locate about Lewis.