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.
Belle da Costa Greene in Egyptian Costume
Laura Coombs Hills
Watercolor on ivory.
5 3/4 x 4 1/4 inches (146 x 108 mm), oval
Bequest of Belle da Costa Greene, 1950.
Signed at left center, "Laura Hills".
Belle da Costa Greene (1883-1950), New York.