front Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Working in Boston at the height of the Civil War, sculptor Edmonia Lewis leveraged her talent to advance the antislavery cause. Her success within Boston’s abolitionist circles enabled her to move to Rome in 1865, where she joined a sisterhood of American female sculptors who found freedom abroad from the constraints of gender and race back home.

While in Rome, Lewis produced this bust of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), a fervent Bostonian abolitionist whose work she greatly admired. Lewis endowed Longfellow with considerable gravitas, emphasizing his voluminous beard and furrowed brow. Her classical treatment of the poet suggests a desire to elevate American culture as the nation reasserted itself on the world stage after years of bloody conflict. For her part, Lewis distinguished herself as one of the first female artists, and certainly the first artist of African American, Haitian, and Ojibwe heritage, to garner international acclaim.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Edmonia Lewis, American (Green Bush, NY 1844 - 1907 London, England)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Work Type
sculpture, bust
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Lazio, Rome
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
74.3 × 41.3 × 33.7 cm (29 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 13 1/4 in.)
205 lb
base: 26.7 × 26.7 cm (10 1/2 × 10 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: right side: EDMONIA LEWIS/ROMA 1871
  • inscription:
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard University Portrait Collection, 1872
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Timothy Anglin Burgard, "Edmonia Lewis & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Images and Identities", American Art Review, vol. VII, no. 1, pp. 114-117, pp. 114-115, ill. p. 115

William Garrott Brown, A List of Portraits in the Various Buildings of Harvard University, Harvard University Library (Cambridge, MA, 1898), p. 27

H. Wade White, "Nineteenth Century American Sculpture at Harvard, a Glance at the Collection", Harvard Library Bulletin (Cambridge, MA, October 1970), vol. XVIII, no. 4, p. 364

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 61, ill.

Eleanor Tufts, "Edmonia Lewis, Afro-Indian Neo-Classicist", Art in America (1974)

Sandra Grindlay, "Harvard's Portraits: An American Treasure", Harvard University Art Museums Review (Fall 1992), vol. II, no. 1, pp. 6-7, p. 6, ill.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., William H. Gerdts, Erica E. Hirshler, Fred Licht, and William L. Vance, The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760-1914, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston / Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Boston, MA and New York, NY, 1992), pp. 242-243, cat. 39, ill.

John M. Hunisak, Castings, Casts and Replicas: Nineteenth-Century Sculpture from Europe and America in New England Collections, exh. cat., Middlebury College Museum of Art (Middlebury, VT, 1994), p. 132

Timothy Anglin Burgard, "Edmonia Lewis and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Images and Identities", brochure, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1995), cover, p. 11, cat. 48

Marceia Borden Lathou, Wildfire: The Life of Edmonia Lewis, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. (New York, NY, 1995)

Sophie Lynford, Natalia Vieyra, and Joanna Sheers Seidenstein, "In Honor of Juneteenth", Index Magazine, Harvard Art Museums ([e-journal], June 19, 2020),, accessed June 29, 202

Exhibition History

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

Black Bostonians: Community and Culture in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, 02/15/1988 - 04/02/1988

The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760-1914, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 09/16/1992 - 12/13/1992; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 02/03/1993 - 04/11/1993; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 05/16/1993 - 08/08/1993

Carvings, Casts, & Replicas: nineteenth-century sculpture from Europe & America in New England collections, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, 09/22/1994 - 12/11/1994

Edmonia Lewis and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Images and Identities, Fogg Art Museum, 02/18/1995 - 05/03/1995

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/01/2050

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/20/2018 - 05/06/2018

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at