After Eduard Hildebrandt’s Humboldt in His Library

Meet the Artists of Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture

A man in a library.

After Eduard Hildebrandt, Humboldt in His Library, 1856, chromolithograph on paper, 18 5/8 x 26 5/8 in., Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Norfleet Jr., Photo: Travis Fullerton, Courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

About this Artwork

In 1855, Smithsonian Regent and art collector William Wilson Corcoran traveled to Europe with former president Millard Fillmore. Carrying a letter on Smithsonian letterhead, they met Humboldt in Berlin, where the aging naturalist welcomed them, showing them around the city and arranging for a dinner with the Prussian king. Corcoran commissioned a marble bust of Humboldt; Fillmore returned with this color print showing Humboldt in his library, surrounded by his books, travel diaries, maps, specimens, and artworks. His rooms had come to resemble Peale’s museum. The globe is positioned to show the regions he visited in South and North America.