Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Scott Reynolds Nelson


Through my dissertation, I embark on a biographical, cultural and historical study of artist and abolitionist Nathaniel Jocelyn (1796-1881), primarily known as a nineteenth-century portrait painter and engraver in New Haven, Connecticut. Although Jocelyn received little formal training, he sought to become a preeminent portrait painter. Together with his younger brother, Simeon Smith Jocelyn (1799-1879), he established a successful engraving firm designing banknotes, maps, atlases, and book illustrations.;Jocelyn lived in an age of evangelical revivalism commonly called the Second Great Awakening. He was a devout Congregationalist and saw the various aspects of his life embedded in his religious convictions. Jocelyn's diary chronicles his beliefs, social views, hopes, fears, daily struggles, and his plans to develop and attain artistic acclaim and economic success.;My dissertation reveals an artist not unlike other enterprising men of the New Republic or most portrait painters of his era who struggled to earn a living. Yet Jocelyn was extraordinary because he created the most important portrait of an African in the nineteenth-century, Cinque (c.1813-1879), leader of the Amistad rebellion of 1839. This portrait challenged Jacksonian-era concepts of portraiture and became one of the most significant icons for the abolitionist movement. For Jocelyn the portrayal of Cinque was the galvanizing event of his life as an artist, abolitionist, and Christian.;Jocelyn not only challenged the concept of conventional portraiture, but also nineteenth-century racial stereotypes by depicting a black man as a man of dignity. Jocelyn used Cinque's portrait to dissociate black skin and African-ness from traditional depictions of black men that linked them with slavery. Jocelyn was not afraid to show an African as a man of power, independence, and intelligence---traits portraitists generally associated with white people.;His depiction of Cinque as an idealized hero was intentional, and it aided the abolitionist cause. Nathaniel Jocelyn created a visual abolitionist language in his portrayal of Cinque by crossing the boundaries of race and imbuing the portrait with an iconography rich with abolitionist and Christian symbolism.;Jocelyn led a multifaceted life as a Christian, abolitionist, portrait painter, inventor, engraver, and esteemed teacher. He had the confidence, admiration, and respect of his peers and the New Haven notables as he maintained intimate ties with the world of art and abolition.



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