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(Aladdin Books, 1999. ISBN: 0-689-82678-8)
Jacket illustration copyright ©1997 by Alex Leon. Jacket design by Michael Nelson.
It's a stormy night in 1827 when Moses Williams, Charles Willson Peale's former slave, relates his startling account of life within the walls of Peale's museum. His voice resounding through the empty halls and corridors, Moses leads us through his adolescent friendship and rivalry with Raphaelle, Peale's son; his frustration at Peale's unfulfilled promises of freedom; and his nagging suspicion that Peale may have had a hand in his own son's death.
WHAT WAS MOSES WILLIAMS THINKING?Silhouette of Moses Williams attributed to Raphaelle Peale. Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
Charles Willson Peale was one of America's first scientists and portrait painters. Moses Williams cut silhouettes in Peale’s Museum over 200 years ago. Now we remember him as one of the earliest African-American artists in the United States.
Silhouettes, also called profiles, were popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Photography had not been invented and portrait painting was expensive. For many people, profiles were the only affordable way to have their picture taken.
Right-click with your mouse, choose Print, and print the silhouette of Moses Williams. Imagine what his thoughts as Raphaelle traced his silhouette. Was he thinking of his secret about the poison? Or wondering if Peale would ever set him free? Maybe Moses was thinking about Peale's new cook, Maria. Write Moses Williams's thoughts underneath the picture.
BE AN ARTIST WITH SCISSORS
Click to see Raphaelle Peale's "Bowl of Peaches"
Click to see Raphaelle Peale's "Still Life with Strawberries and Nuts"
Click to see Charles Willson Peale's portrait of Raphaelle Peale as described in The Poison Place on p. 144.