Moses Williams (1777-c. 1825)
Raphaelle Peale, after 1802
Hollow-cut silhouette on paper, 13.3x9.5 cm
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2009-18-42(169)
DescriptionThe relationship between the silhouettes and their author, Moses Williams, is a testament to the complex role of racial identity in early America. Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825) was the son of Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and a renowned early American painter. Raphaelle, like Moses Williams, was also trained as a profile cutter. Williams was raised in slavery alongside Raphaelle and the other Peale children yet later became their collaborator. Williams was trained in taxidermy and museological display with the Peales, but unlike the Peale children, Williams was not taught the higher art of painting. Raphaelle promoted the physiognotrace with his father and was sent to Monticello to produce a silhouette of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). However, Charles Willson Peale credited Williams’ skill for the success of the physiognotrace.
Researcher: Jennifer Donnelly