Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Moses Williams, Cutter of Profiles
An Illustrated Presentation By
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, University of Pennsylvania
Co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Society Museum
Lecture at 6:00 PM
The museum will be open prior to the lecture.
Followed by the Annual Members' Reception
(Free for members, $10 for non-members)
Please Register Here
for the Lecture and the Reception
Silhouette of William Wagner from the Peale Museum, 1812.
Archives of the Wagner Free Institute of Science.
Many people know of Charles Willson Peale, a portrait artist and collector who established one of the first public museums in Philadelphia in the 18th century. Lesser known is Moses Williams, one of the Peale family’s slaves who worked in the museum after becoming free. Among his other odd jobs, Williams was a “cutter of profiles”—meaning he created cut silhouette portraits that museum visitors could take away as souvenirs. William Wagner himself had a silhouette cut when his family visited Peale’s museum, a visit that he says inspired his founding of the Wagner Institute. Join Dr. Shaw, Associate Professor of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, to explore the life and work of Mr. Williams, and how his story illuminates hidden narratives about race, identity, and art in the age of Peale’s museum.
This talk is co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Society Museum, which is hosting the exhibit “Curious Revolutionaries: The Peales of Philadelphia” from April 7th to December 30th, 2017.
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is Associate Professor of American Art and affiliated faculty in Africana Studies, Cinema Studies, and Women and Gender Studies. She received her PhD in art history from Stanford University and then held an appointment as an assistant professor of History of Art and African and African American Studies at Harvard University for five years before coming to the University of Pennsylvania in September 2005. During that time she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a received a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Ford Foundation. Since coming to Penn she has served as a faculty fellow and faculty master in the College House system, directed the undergraduate major in Visual Studies, and spent a quarter as a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Washington. In May of 2014 she was honored with the School of Arts and Sciences Award for Innovation in Teaching.
Following the lecture we welcome our members to join Dr. Shaw in the museum for our Annual Member Reception, featuring light refreshments. The reception is free for members; non-members are also welcome to attend for $10.00 per person.