This is a white marble sculpture that depicts the upper torso of a man. There is drapery wrapped loosely around his figure. He is shown staring into the viewer's space and his facial expression is calm and reserved. This sculpture is carved in a realistic manner and rests on a columnar pedestal.
An American expatriate sculptor, Randolph Rogers grew up in Ann Arbor but spent much of his adult life in Rome. As was typical of many aspiring 19th-century American sculptors, Rogers went to Italy to study classical Greek and Roman art as an essential prelude to becoming an accomplished artist. Although he was accustomed to studying and copying from classical sculpture, he also created replicas of 18th-century works, such as French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Bust of George Washington, whose heroicized likeness, draping fabric and reserved expression would have appealed to Rogers’ Neoclassical taste. Rogers completed the bust of Washington in 1868, just three years after the end of the American Civil War, during a time of great change and an increasing desire on both moral and aesthetic grounds to return to the order, democracy and calm grandeur of the Roman Republic.
Houdon modeled his bust of George Washington from life in 1785 after spending two weeks in Washington’s home at Mount Vernon taking measurements, making casts of the general’s shoulders and sculpting wet clay models, which he used to produce countless commissioned sculptures in numerous variations. Rogers likely copied Houdon’s bust from photographs or prints of the work, first modeling it in clay, then casting it in plaster to be given to stonecutters who sculpted it in marble, as was common practice among many sculptors of the time.
Bronze sculpture of a standing male figure his right hand holding a shield which rests upon a stack of book while his left arm is outstretched hovering over the crouching figure of an African American male figure.
At the end of the Civil War (1861–65) there was an effort to promote an American Renaissance and to beautify cities with civic monuments and public sculpture. Sculptors, including Randolph Rogers, were commissioned to produce memorials that addressed themes of war and slavery and to commemorate military heroes, from the common soldier to President Abraham Lincoln himself. This work is a maquette for the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Park, which depicts Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” freeing a slave, establishing a narrative of theoretical peace and unity.
Inscribed left side of base: T. Ball Sc./1865; slave's cap inscribed: LIBERTY