A Closer Look
We often hear that copying is wrong, but a good way to study techniques of art is to imitate the works of other artists. 400 years after Michelangelo, Edmonia Lewis lived in Rome, Italy, where she copied his statue of Moses. Her Moses is amazingly similar to the original artwork by Michelangelo. Look at a sculpture that inspires you. Use clay or any material you feel is right to make a copy of it. Study the original carefully to see how closely you can duplicate it.
About the Sculpture
Tourists who visited Italy during the 19th century often commissioned artists to make copies of famous sculptures. One of them might have commissioned Edmonia Lewis to copy Michelangelo's Moses to celebrate his 400th birthday. Lewis was African American so Moses, who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, may have had special meaning for her. She probably sketched Michelangelo’s sculpture, made a small clay model and cast it in plaster before carving it in marble.
About the Artist
Mary Edmonia Lewis was the first African American recognized as a sculptor. Her father was a free African American and her mother was a Chippewa Indian. Until she was twelve she lived with her mother’s tribe and her name was Wildfire. She made and sold sculptures of abolitionists to pay her way to Rome in 1865. As a woman sculptor, she always felt it was important to do the hard, heavy work of sculpture herself.