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Painting of woman in lacy white dress

A medium-skinned young woman stands facing the viewer. She is visible from the hips up. She has smooth, dark hair; large, upturned brown eyes; and a relatively large nose. The woman wears circular diamond earrings and a gold necklace that appears to have a bird-shaped pendant. Her dress is white, with a slight sheen and a delicate lace overlay embroidered with small flowers. The boned bodice accentuates the woman’s very small waist. Sheer sleeves drape over the woman’s arms. She wears dark net gloves and holds a small bouquet. Behind her is a grassy area with trees and a stream.

Gallery Text

Hudson was among the leading artists in antebellum New Orleans, and he is one of the earliest documented American painters of African descent. Hudson died at the young age of 33, and scholars are just now beginning to reconstitute his body of work. His oeuvre is largely comprised of portraits of individuals from the thriving community of "gens de couleur libres," or free people of color, who inhabited New Orleans in the years before the Civil War.

Hudson captured the likeness of this young woman shortly after returning from his second trip to Paris, where he is believed to have studied with Abel de Pujol (1785–1861), a student of Jacques-Louis David. Unfortunately, the identity of the sitter is now unknown, and the history of the portrait is fragmentary. The painting traveled from New Orleans to Kansas City, Missouri, in the early 20th century, but the details of its ownership before this period are not known.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Julien Hudson, American (New Orleans 1811 - 1844 New Orleans)
Portrait of a Young Woman in White
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2200, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Emergence of Romanticism in Early Nineteenth-Century France
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
73 × 60.3 cm (28 3/4 × 23 3/4 in.)
framed: 96 × 82.5 cm (37 13/16 × 32 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r., red paint: J. Hudson / 1840
  • label: verso, printed: Hirschl & Adler / The Crown Building / 730 Fifth Avenue / New York, NY 10019 / T 212.535.8810 F 212.772.7237 / Stock No. APG 20934D / Artist: Hudson, Julien (1811-1844) / Title: Portrait of a Young Lady in White / Medium: Oil on canvas / Size: 28 3/4" x 23 3/4" / Date: 1840


Recorded Ownership History
Private collection, Kansas City, MO and California, late 1920s to early 1970s, by descent; to their great-niece and nephew, early 1970s to 1979, gift; to private collection, 1979 to 2017, sold [through Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York]; to Harvard Art Museums, 2017

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Richard Norton Memorial Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Ethan Lasser, "The Unknown Sitter", Index Magazine ([e-journal], March 15, 2018),, accessed March 16, 2018
  • Zaria Ware, BLK ART: The Audacious Legacy of Black Artists and Models in Western Art, Harper Design (New York, 2023), Pg. 199, ill: Color

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2200 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/19/2019 - 01/01/2050
  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/16/2018 - 05/06/2018

Verification Level

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