Jonathan Eastman Johnson (1824 – 1906) was an American painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In this painting from 1864, Johnson depicts merchant William Tilden Blodgett and his family in the parlor of their Manhattan home. Painted toward the end of the Civil War, the serene interior only hints at the urgent issue of Black emancipation through a kinetic toy seen on the table (click the image to enlarge for detail). Suggestive of a minstrel figure and outfitted as a Union recruit, its presence underlines Blodgett’s abolitionist sympathies and the complexity of racial stereotyping at this time. Along with Johnson, Blodgett would later serve as a trustee of The Met, securing funds for the purchase of the 174 European pantings in 1871, which included works by Anthony van Dyck and Francesco Giardi.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibition, Making the Met, 1870-2020, a Celebration of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150 Year Anniversary.