Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Statuette of Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Art Inventories Catalog

While researching Robert Ball Hughes plaster model for the Alexander Hamilton statue, I came across a record for this statue by Ball Hughes in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Art Inventories Catalog on the SIRIS database. I have searched this database before and never saw this statuette. I was quite excited to see an image of it.

The SIRIS record states that the 26" high plaster statuette is inscribed "Liberty or Death" on the base. The description says: "Full-length portrait of Patrick Henry. He holds his drawn sword in his upraised proper right hand and points downward with his proper left hand. His hat is on the ground behind him." The statuette is owned by a private collector near Boston.

In the article, Patrick Henry: Sentinel for the People, William Rasmussen of the Virginia Historical Society wrote "Henry's military role was celebrated well into the nineteenth century. In the 1830s, Robert Ball Hughes depicted this side of Henry's public service with a small, standing sculpture of the Virginia colonel. This fragile plaster figure is one of many by Hughes never put into marble or bronze due to the artist's poverty and lack of patronage." The article appeared in the February - March 1996 issue of American Art Review. The article is available on the scholarly Traditional Fine Arts Organization website.

Note that in the 1830's, Ball Hughes survived the Cholera of 1832 in New York by fleeing the city and he lived through the The Panic of 1837. These events no doubt had an effect on Ball Hughes poverty and lack of patronage.

Rev. 10/7/2009


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