Dred Scott, ca. 1857

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Image Reference

Post-card issued by the New York Historical Society which owns the painting; see also Comments.

Oil painting by anonymous artist. Born a slave in Virginia in 1799, and brought to St. Louis when in his twenties, Scott sued for his freedom in 1857 and became a central figure in a major U.S. Supreme Court decision which, in effect, upheld the right of the state of Missouri to hold him as a slave; thus, his petition for freedom was ultimately denied based on an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The portrait is probably based on an engraving of Dred Scott which appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (June 27, 1857), accompanying a lengthy article describing a visit to Scott and his household in 1857 (vol. 4, pp. 49-50). Scott had agreed to go to a studio to have his photograph taken by a Mr. Fitzgibbon of St. Louis. The engraving published in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper was derived from this photo which, in turn, is identical to the one shown in this painting. The same issue of Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper also has engraved portraits of Scott's wife Harriet and his daughters Eliza and Lizzie, also derived from photographs by Fitzgibbon.