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Dr. James Hunter Fayssoux
Dr. James Hunter Fayssoux, c. 1802-11
Moses Williams, American
Hollow-cut silhouette
Sheet (irregular): 4 7/8 x 3 15/16 inches (12.4 x 10 cm)
Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2009
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Let’s Look

  • Compare Moses Williams’s cut-paper profiles. What features make each profile unique?
  • Why do you think everyone is facing to the side and not to the front?
  • What can you tell about each person? What details are not included?
  • Why do people want images of themselves?

Let’s Look Again

  • All of Williams's profiles were cut out of paper. What parts do you think would be the most difficult to cut? Why do you think that?
  • What clues tell you that these people lived about two hundred years ago?
  • Choose two people who are represented in Williams’s cut-paper profiles and imagine them meeting on the street. What would they say to each other?



Connect and Compare

  • Where else can you find profile portraits? For example, investigate coins from many different times and places, including modern money and ancient Roman coins. How are they similar and different to Williams’s profiles? What other cultures have recorded people’s likeness in profiles? Explore the origin of the artistic tradition in each culture.
  • Research the history of the freed African American community in Philadelphia. How did the population change over time? How did its size compare to that of other cities in the United States? Investigate the roles of African American leaders in religion, the arts, politics, education, business, and social activism in Philadelphia.
  • Investigate the 1780 Gradual Abolition of Slavery Act. What does the law state? Why weren’t all slaves in Pennsylvania freed at that time?

Related Art Project

In pairs, make cut-out profiles by tracing the shadow of each partner’s face. One student stands in front of an overhead projector so that his or her profile’s shadow appears on the wall. The other student traces the outline of the shadow onto white paper taped to the wall. Cut along the line and place the profile on black paper for contrast.

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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