An art history mystery at Worcester Art Museum

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Forget the da Vinci Code. There’s no Knight Templars or murderous albinos, but the life and death of Julien Hudson and the whereabouts of his paintings is a fascinating “art historical mystery’’ waiting to be solved.

The second-earliest documented painter of African descent in the U.S., Hudson was making his mark as a portraitist in New Orleans in the early 1800s before dying of unknown causes, leaving behind just six canvases.

Who was the man with searching eyes in one of his remaining paintings? Did he kill himself, as some suspect? With his sixth painting discovered by a New England collector, can more of Hudson’s valuable works be found in area shops, flea markets or your attic?

An intriguing exhibit, “In Search of Julien Hudson,’’ at the Worcester Art Museum, offers the first retrospective about the man and the artist whose enigmatic career casts light on the lives of free blacks and mixed race people in Louisiana before the Civil War?...

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