Providence? 1883? First Edition. Albumen photograph measuring 5 ¾ x 4 ½ inches on larger mount. Some light wear, near fine. Fine. Item #List2102
Sarah James Eddy, the abolitionist and social reformer from Providence, Rhode Island, painted the only known portrait of Frederick Douglass for which he sat in 1883. She painted two portraits, one of which hangs in the Frederick Douglass house, and the other which was gifted to W.E.B. Du Bois and later lost. Offered here is an albumen photograph of a pen and ink sketch of Douglass, possibly done as a study for her portrait - and though the pose is not identical, Douglass does wear the attire as the painted portraits. Douglass sat for two portraits during 1883 while in Providence, possibly due to the influence of Eddy’s grandfather, the abolitionist Francis Jackson. Eddy would launch her photography career a decade later, in the 1890s, and continue painting as well, painting two well-known portraits of Susan B. Anthony. We find no record of the original drawing in this photograph, though it is clearly Eddy’s work as it is signed in the image. Douglass’s hair style, beard and general expression match the 1883 portrait. The format dates it to the late 19th century, and it’s possible that Eddy reproduced one of her earlier sketches for commercial production. We find a record of this drawing in the Library of Congress’s negative collection, but no examples of the photograph from the period held institutionally.