Phillis Wheatley or Dido Elizabeth Belle?

Now that we have the fascinating story of Dido Belle, let’s take another look at this supposed portrait of Phillis Wheatley in evening dress. Image Published in a French review in the 1830s, long after Wheatley’s death, there is virtually no documentation to establish the subject’s identity. I’d say it is far more likely a depiction of Dido Belle. Image

Detail from double portrait of Elizabeth Murray and her cousin, Dido Elizabeth Belle by an unknown artist (formerly att. Johann Zoffany).

Scotland (1779). Oil on canvas.

Scone Palace, Perth (private collection of the Earl of Mansfield



Engraved portrait of Phillis Wheatley, used as the frontispiece to her collection of poems, Reflections on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (London, 1773). Attributed to the poet and visual artist Scipio Moorhead, a slave in Boston, Massachusetts, and a friend of Phillis Wheatley. One element of the identification of the  portrait as Wheatley might have been a mention of the subject’s finger held to her cheek.

— Marilyn Richardson


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