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#Tweet Edmonia Lewis's biographer @andthatrhymeswi
The biographical chapter on Edmonia Lewis in Bearden-Henderson, History of African American Artists from 1792, (Pantheon, 1993; out-of-print) wrote,
In 1883 Bullard reported that Lewis had completed an unusual bas-relief in marble for a church in Baltimore. It depicted the infant Jesus attended by three adoring "wise men" with definite racial characteristics -- Caucasian, Asian, and African. "Of the three, the African is given the greater prominence," wrote Bullard. [Woman's Journal, Mar. 10, 1883]
The work, installed at the Episcopal Chapel of St. Mary's the Virgin, was lost due to a fire. Researcher Holly Solano discovered a photo of it in 2011. She wrote, in part,
When I researched the church, with the fire, the rebuild, the highway demolition and move to a new building, I figured it was the trifecta of a dead end. But I just felt compelled to go visit (I am a photographer, too, and they have lovely stained glass in their new building) so I made an appointment. I was wrapping up my photography of their stained glass when Leatrice (the office administrator) came to check on me and say that I seemed to be interested in old stuff and she had some old photos she thought I might find interesting. I was excited (as you can probably imagine) when I was initially shown their photo of the original Orchard Street church interior. But I was crestfallen upon examining the altar in the photo and discovering it was covered with what looked like renaissance style (gold background) paintings, and not sculpture at all, as all the sources I had described Magi as an "altarpiece." Leatrice said some of the "old-timers" said the church was very decorated, and some of the sculptures were made of marble and came from famous sculptors in Rome, Italy. I commented that Edmonia Lewis had her studio in Rome and worked in marble. Then I was shown 1932 article from the Afro American (Baltimore) newspaper framed and hanging on the wall, describing the church's history. When I started to read it, I discovered that the article identified the sculpture, the artist, its description, and location - ...a rerodos hanging OVER the altar... When I spun around (literally) in the hallway to re-examine the photo of the church interior, there it was, in the photo, hanging over the altar. I had been looking at the altar, not OVER it. The evidence was sitting in plain sight the whole time!
Detail courtesy of and copyright Holly Solano
More about this work in The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis. A Narrative Biography.
last edited 04/23/2019