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Hiawatha's Marriage

Dimensions:32 1/4 x 15 x 10 1/2 inches (81.9 x 38.1 x 26.7 cm)
Date: 1874
Medium: white marble
Credit Line: Purchase of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, 2009
Object number: 2009.3.1
Venue:Stark Museum of Art
On View
Signature: EDMONIA LEWIS ROMA 1874 (back edge of base, etched in stone)
Inscription: HIAWATHA'S MARRIAGE (front edge of base, etched in stone)
Provenance: Unknown gallery, Jacksonville, Illinois; acquired c.1960 by an unknown owner; purchased June 26, 2009 through (Sotheby's, New York, New York) by Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation [1]; accessioned to the Stark Museum of Art | 1. Sotheby's, American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture, New York, May 21, 2009, 10:00am, Lot 32
Label Text:Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor of African American and Ojibwe Indian heritage. She grew up among the Ojibwe people in upstate New York. Lewis attended school at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied art. After moving to Boston, she received formal training in sculpture. Lewis then traveled to Italy, where there were better opportunities to create and market her work, and where marble was plentiful. She settled in Rome and befriended a group of American women artists working there. Lewis made frequent trips back to the United States to exhibit and sell her art. She gained acclaim for her sculptures both in America and abroad.

In her sculpture "Hiawatha’s Marriage," Lewis depicts the wedding of Hiawatha and Minnehaha from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha." In the story, Hiawatha, an Ojibwe Indian leader, wins the love of Minnehaha, a member of the rival nation of the Dacotahs. Edmonia Lewis created several sculptures inspired by Longfellow’s poem. She also made a portrait of the author, whom she met in Rome. Lewis’s interest in "The Song of Hiawatha" may have been sparked by the Ojibwe background she shared with its subject. Sculpted after the American Civil War, Lewis’s portrayal of the union of Hiawatha and Minnehaha has also been interpreted as a symbol of the reunification of the Northern and Southern states of America.