Tracing Slavery: I

Moses Williams: Silhouettes

Moses Williams (1777-c. 1825) was a prolific silhouette artist and former slave who worked for Charles Willson Peale, the early-American portraitist, naturalist, and museum founder. Williams cut silhouette portraits of guests to Peale’s museum in Philadelphia as a memento of their visit. The black and white portraits made by Williams are striking in that they represent the white, powerful elite of the early nineteenth century, many of whom were slave holders. Among the sitters in this selection is Dr. James Hunter Fayssoux, a friend of the Peales who was likely studying medicine in Philadelphia with Dr. Benjamin Rush.