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  • Haley Jensen

Scipio Moorhead

Scipio Moorhead is an enslaved artist of African descent.

None of his works are signed and most historians assume that he was the artist responsible for Wheatley’s portrait on the cover of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.


He was commissioned to create an engraved portrait of Wheatley for her novel by the Countess of Hasting's.


According to Vincent Caretta this image of Wheatley is the first portrait of an individual women of sub-Saharan African descendent to be made in the West.

Prior to this most art depicting black women were degrading and presenting racist ideas that black people were unintelligent and just serving white people.

Wheatley is depicted sitting at her desk writing, showing her intellectual power in this engraving as a direct counter to racist engravings and artwork.


This is an important explanation for the lack of images of black authors and artists in this website.


The relationship between Moorhead and Wheatley is powerful as Moorhead has the ability to memorialize Wheatley's place in history accordingly.

Seen in Wheatley's poem below.



‘To S. M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works’ and is most likely about Scipio Moorhead.

"Still, wond’rous youth! each noble path pursue,
On deathless glories fix thine ardent view:
Still may the painter’s and the poet’s fire
To aid thy pencil, and thy verse conspire!
And may the charms of each seraphic theme
Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!"

Examples of art from 18th century depicting black people as servants and incapable and beneath white people. Scopio's portrait is in juxtaposition to this depicting Wheatley as a black women capable and intelligent. To be clear there still is racism present in the circle around the image.


Portrait of Heinrich Carl Schimmelmann with the portrait of his wife Caroline Tugendreich with an African slave boy, 1773, The Museum of National History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,
Portrait of Heinrich Carl Schimmelmann with the portrait of his wife Caroline Tugendreich with an African slave boy, 1773, The Museum of National History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,
 

The Poem is available below:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52519/to-s-m-a-young-african-painter-on-seeing-his-works

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