April 3rd, 2009
The image displayed is a portrait of Dred Scott by artist Louis Schultze in 1887. The picture gives the viewer the visible belief of what Dred Scott looked like during the 19th Century. The painting of Scott was created post-slavery; the white buttoned down shirt, bow tie, and blazer indicated Scott had some money to show his social class as a free African American. This type of formal posture was a very common way to pose for a portrait. The painting was originally taken from a photograph; the photographer is unknown. The painting is oil on canvas and is a 25 by 30 inch portrait. The painting was given to the Missouri Historical Society after Scott’s death to commemorate his fight for freedom.
In 1857, Dred Scott, a slave unsuccessfully tried to sue the United States for his freedom in the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case. Scott and his wife Harriet were slaves, but had lived in states where slavery was illegal such as in the Wisconsin area. The Supreme Court decision declared that neither he, nor any person of African ancestry, could claim citizenship in the United States. Since Scott was a slave, he was not considered a citizen of the U.S. and therefore could not sue the court.
Louis Schultze was born in Germany around 1820 and immigrated to the United States during the mid 19th century; he resided in St. Louis, Missouri. Schultze was known for painting portraits of historical, religious, and genre scenes. Besides being known for his painting of Dred Scott, he also painted “And the Colored Troops Fought Nobly,” which was shown at the National Academy of Design in 1867. Schultze wanted to paint a portrait of Dred Scott because he was very interested in the “colored people.” He was very curious about Scott because he was one of the first African Americans to fight for his freedom in court. The photograph Schultze used of Dred Scott is the only real picture of Scott from the 19th Century.