Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (American, 1830-1908): A  carved white marble figure of 'Will O'The Wisp'

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Lot 91TP
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (American, 1830-1908): A carved white marble figure of 'Will O'The Wisp'

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 24,144) inc. premium
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (American, 1830-1908): A carved white marble figure of 'Will O'The Wisp'
the winged child seated cross-legged holding a flambe torch and wearing a cap surmounted by an owl, a tortoise to its feet, raised on a lily pad and fruiting foliate base with integral square shallow plinth, signed to the rear, HARRIET HOSMER, FECIT ROMA, 84cm high overall

Footnotes

  • Please see below for lot footnote:

    Harriet Goodhue Hosmer is now considered to be the first female professional sculptor and the most distinguished female sculptor in in the history of America during the 19th century.

    The present lot is one of a series of playful sculptures based on literary and folklore themes made popular by the sculptor. Drawing on the world of the fairy, Hosmer created several conceptions in marble, Shakespeare's 'Puck' from A Midsummer Night's Dream being the most well-known which was conceived and first executed in 1855. The figure became so popular that it eventually was replicated over thirty times with several copies commissioned by visiting royalty including Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) who visited Hosmer's studio in Rome and ordered a Puck for his rooms at Oxford.

    Typifying the prevailing taste of the period for neo-classical works, the sculptures were designed by Hosmer on a relatively small scale and were aimed to grace the typical upper-middle-class drawing rooms and parlours of her English and American patrons. The use of literary, mythological and folklore themes handled in a whimsical manner coupled with fine workmanship and pure white marble was carefully calculated to appeal to the most demanding of these clients.
    By the time, Hosmer conceived the first of her three variations of the figure of 'Will o' the Wisp' - a figure traditionally seen as a symbol of elusive hope with a personality that combined good and evil, dating from 1856, 1858 and 1864, she was on her way to becoming one of the best-known and most successful professional women of her day in not only in America but also in Europe and rest of the world.

    Born in Watertown, Massachusetts, her mother and three siblings died during her childhood. As a direct result, although a delicate child she was encouraged and mentored by her physician father Hiram Hosmer, through his loss, to pursue a life outside the constraints of polite female society. This included a full academic education, physical training and travel. He also encouraged and nurtured her artistic passion, allowing her to go to Rome to become the pupil of the sculptor John Gibson and to settle when she took on a studio to take work commissions.

    Whilst living in Rome, she also became friends with the ex-pat colony of European artists and writers that included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bertel Thorvaldsen, William Makepeace Thackeray Georges Eliot and George Sand and in Florence she was the frequent guest of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. She also met and encouraged a group of American female artists included Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Louisa Lander, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream – a circle which the writer Henry James later called 'a sisterhood of American lady sculptors'.

Saleroom notices

  • Please see below for lot footnote: Harriet Goodhue Hosmer is now considered to be the first female professional sculptor and the most distinguished female sculptor in in the history of America during the 19th century. The present lot is one of a series of playful sculptures based on literary and folklore themes made popular by the sculptor. Drawing on the world of the fairy, Hosmer created several conceptions in marble, Shakespeare's 'Puck' from A Midsummer Night's Dream being the most well-known which was conceived and first executed in 1855. The figure became so popular that it eventually was replicated over thirty times with several copies commissioned by visiting royalty including Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) who visited Hosmer's studio in Rome and ordered a Puck for his rooms at Oxford. Typifying the prevailing taste of the period for neo-classical works, the sculptures were designed by Hosmer on a relatively small scale and were aimed to grace the typical upper-middle-class drawing rooms and parlours of her English and American patrons. The use of literary, mythological and folklore themes handled in a whimsical manner coupled with fine workmanship and pure white marble was carefully calculated to appeal to the most demanding of these clients. By the time, Hosmer conceived the first of her three variations of the figure of 'Will o' the Wisp' - a figure traditionally seen as a symbol of elusive hope with a personality that combined good and evil, dating from 1856, 1858 and 1864, she was on her way to becoming one of the best-known and most successful professional women of her day in not only in America but also in Europe and rest of the world. Born in Watertown, Massachusetts, her mother and three siblings died during her childhood. As a direct result, although a delicate child she was encouraged and mentored by her physician father Hiram Hosmer, through his loss, to pursue a life outside the constraints of polite female society. This included a full academic education, physical training and travel. He also encouraged and nurtured her artistic passion, allowing her to go to Rome to become the pupil of the sculptor John Gibson and to settle when she took on a studio to take work commissions. Whilst living in Rome, she also became friends with the ex-pat colony of European artists and writers that included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bertel Thorvaldsen, William Makepeace Thackeray Georges Eliot and George Sand and in Florence she was the frequent guest of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. She also met and encouraged a group of American female artists included Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Louisa Lander, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream – a circle which the writer Henry James later called 'a sisterhood of American lady sculptors'.
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Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (American, 1830-1908): A  carved white marble figure of 'Will O'The Wisp'
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