When Edmonia Lewis unveiled the famous sculpture, THe Death of Cleopatra at the 1876 Centenial Exposition in Philadelphia, she was already a widely recognized sculptor.
Arriving in Boston in 1863 from Oberlin College, Lewis was ready to work as an artist. Inspired by the bravery of the abolition movement, Lewis created busts of men such as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, William Lloyd Garrison and Abraham Lincoln. These busts were so popular that the originals were reproduced and sold throughout northern cities, making Lewis a widely recognized artist.
But regional recognition was not enough for Lewis, who wanted to live in a society void of racism. By 1865, Lewis was living in Rome and sculpting pieces that were inspired not only by her heritage as a woman of African and Native American descent, but also European culture.