Enslaved Girl
Original Author: Mary Anna Randolph Custis
Created: 1830
Medium: Watercolor, pencil, and ink on wove paper

Enslaved Girl

An enslaved girl balances a wooden tub on top of her head in this watercolor portrait made by Mary Randolph Custis in 1830. The barefoot girl wears a full-length apron over a short-sleeved, reddish-orange checked dress. Likely one of the Custis family slaves, her name is unknown. Custis or someone else later added the name "Topsy" in pencil at the bottom of her apron, probably as a reference to an enslaved girl in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). The intention of this attribution is not known. Custis, the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh, married Robert E. Lee, her distant cousin, in 1831, the year after this portrait was made.