The Italian Presence in American Art, 1760-1860

By Irma B. Jaffe | Go to book overview

a vicious ignoble Indian who symbolizes the forces of savagery, heathenism, and wilderness that must be subdued for civilization's progress.

Although these artists remain rather obscure, their sculptural achievements, with the exception of Persico Discovery of America (in storage since 1958), are permanent records of the Italian presence in this country when American sculpture as a profession had not yet begun. Through the work for the Capitol, the Italian artists contributed to the creation of a national iconography that narrates myths related to the country's history. Their sculptures outlined the course of America's "civilization," from its discovery and settlement, a theme on which American painters and sculptors would expand, especially after the Capitol's expansion, which began in 1850. 45


NOTES
1.
Literature on the expatriate colony of the Anglo- American artists in Italy is extensive. See, for example, M. F. Thorp, The Literary Sculptors, Durham, N.C., 1965; V. W. Brooks, The Dream of Arcadia: American Writers and Artists in Italy, 1760-1915, New York, 1958; and S. E. Crane, White Silence: Greenough, Pbuwrs, and Crawford, American Sculptors in Nineteenth-Century Italy, Coral Gables, Fla., 1972. Two recent dissertations on the American sculptors' artistic creations and expatriate experiences in Italy are L. Dimmick , "A Catalogue of the Portrait Busts and Ideal Works of Thomas Crawford (1813?-1857), American Sculptor in Rome," Ph.D. Diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1986, and J. S. Ramirez, "William Wetmore Story: A Career in the Renaissance Spirit," Ph.D. Diss., Boston University, 1984.
2.
N. Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, or The Romance of Monte Beni, New York and Toronto, 1981, vi.
3.
The reasons behind the expatriation of the American sculptors to Italy are summarized in W. H. Gerdts , American Neo-Classic Sculpture: The Marble Resurrection, New York, 1973, 16-19, and expanded upon by Ramirez (as in n. 1).
4.
I have examined the evolution, iconography, and responses to Greenough "Washington in Horatio Greenough's George Washington: A President in Apotheosis," The Augustan Age, Occasional Papers I, 1987, 70-86.
5.
The other works created for the U. S. Capitol by these sculptors are as follows: Capellano Fame and Peace Crowning George Washington ( 1827, above the central doorway on the east façade); Causici's and Capellano's reliefs of the discoverers John Cabot, Christopher Columbus, La Salle, and Sir Walter Raleigh ( 1824-1829, above some of the paintings in the Rotunda); Causici Genius of the Constitution ( 1817- 1819, Old House of Representatives, now Statuary Hall); Persico Genius of America ( 1825- 1828, central pediment on the east façade); and his War and Peace ( 1829-1834, in the niches that flank the central doorway on the east façade). For the iconography of these works, see my "Sculpture as History: Themes of Liberty, Unity, and Manifest Destiny," Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1984.

Causici's allegorical group in Statuary Hall is entitled "Liberty and the Eagle" in twentieth-century government publications on the art in the Capitol. See C. E. Fairman, Art and Artists of the Capitol of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1927, 51-52, and Art in the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 1976, 279. My revision of the plaster cases title from "Liberty and the Eagle" to "Genius of the Constitution" derives from Irma Jaffe's observation that the female figure lacks the traditional symbols that would identify the allegory as "Libertas," and from two nineteenth-century documents that identify the statue as "Genius of the Constitution": Register of Debates, 16th Congress, 2nd session, November, 1820, 457; and Records of the U. S. House of Representatives Reports of Committee on Public Buildings, National Archives, H R 14 C B3.

-145-

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