Attributed to Raphaelle Peale (1777- c. 1825)
Moses Williams, Cutter of Profiles, c. 1803
Hollow-cut silhouette on paper, 7.5 x 8 inches
Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia
DescriptionMoses Williams (1777-c. 1825) was a skilled portrait cutter who worked at Charles Willson Peale’s museum, first as Peale’s slave and then as a freedman. He earned six to eight cents for each portrait produced. Williams cut silhouettes of the entire Peale family. This silhouette, one of a few surviving profiles of an African American, is distinctive because it identifies Williams by his occupation as a skilled artisan and by the name he chose for himself after being freed, taking his father’s last name and not Peale’s. Williams’ likeness is doubly inscribed with the assertion of his professional and familial identity as a freedman.
Researcher: Jennifer Donnelly