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Rare Photo of Noted Black Female Sculptor of 19th Century Found

A stroll through a Baltimore antique shop has turned up an unsuspected treasure — a rare photograph of Mary Edmonia Lewis, the first 19th century African-American sculptor to receive international recognition.

The Walters Art Museum, which announced the discovery on Wednesday, said this was only the eighth known photograph of Lewis. The image was shot in the three years beginning 1874, when the New York-born sculptor was 30 to 32 years old, by the prestigious Italian studio of Fratelli D’Allessandri.

The worn, 4″ by 2.5″ rectangle — the 19th century equivalent of a calling card — was found by the museum’s deputy director of audience engagement Jacqueline Copeland. Copeland was combing through a box of photographs of unnamed African-American men, women and children in the Baltimore store that wishes to remain anonymous.

“I was ecstatic when I realized that this unidentified black woman (posing) proudly and confidently in a 19th century dress was Edmonia Lewis, since so few images of her exist,” Copeland said in a news release.

Read more: The Baltimore Sun

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