Event—Scholarly Seminars

Christopher Allison, University of Chicago, and Elizabeth Bacon Eager, SMU Meadows


Art on Trial: John Browere, Elias Hicks, and the Deathly Beauty of Face Cast, Christopher Allison

This paper examines the life of the eccentric John Browere, a sculptor active in New York City in the first decades of the nineteenth century. It centers on a legal dispute that resulted from Browere’s non-consensual exhumation of Quaker luminary Elias Hicks the night after his death in 1830 to cast his face. This led to a trial during which the artistic merits of cast-based bust portraiture was debated. Browere and many of the Quakers he worked with believed that indexical methods of representation were not only legitimate but exceptional objects of artistic endeavor due to their ability to relate “natural beauty” with minimal mediation.

Beyond the Veil: The Artist in His Museum and the Technology of Projection in Early America, Elizabeth Bacon Eager

This paper places Charles Willson Peale’s 1822 self-portrait The Artist in His Museum in dialogue with the tools and techniques of nineteenth-century projective science. Comparing Peale’s painting practice to the techniques of projection deployed in surveying and cartography, I examine the ways in which the painting engages the early Republic’s emergent forms of graphic and technical literacy as well as the implications of projective technology for the United States as both a recently defunct colony and a newly colonizing power.

Respondent: Sarah Carter, University of Wisconsin