Belle da Costa Greene in Egyptian Costume

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Laura Coombs Hills
1859-1952
ca. 1910
Watercolor on ivory.
5 3/4 x 4 1/4 inches (146 x 108 mm), oval
Bequest of Belle da Costa Greene, 1950.
AZ164
Inscription: 
Signed at left center, "Laura Hills".
Provenance: 
Belle da Costa Greene (1883-1950), New York.
Notes: 

This portrait of Greene, librarian to Pierpont Morgan and the first director of the Morgan Library, was executed by Laura Coombs Hills, a Boston-based miniaturist. Hills depicted Greene, a twenty-seven year old Black woman who assumed a Portuguese surname and passed as white, in Egyptian costume. When Hills asked to exhibit the miniature in 1912, Greene declined, noting that it caused "so much comment, being a bit unusual" that she decided against showing it in public again. Greene was very fond of the miniature, and had sent a black and white image of it to Bernard Berenson, her friend and lover, to cheer him up during an illness in 1910.

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