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SCULPTURE
Emancipation Group, 1865 (cast 1873)
Bronze
sculpture: 32 3/8 x 21 3/4 x 15 1/4 in. (82.2 x 55.2 x 38.7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. William Couper
Florence, Italy
1913.10
Thomas Ball made his mark as one of the leading sculptors of his generation who rendered contemporary themes. Much of Ball's career was spent in Italy, where he opened his studio to younger sculptors such as Daniel Chester French and William Couper, who became his son-in-law. While in Florence, Ball created the Emancipation Group, a tribute to the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln for his abolition of slavery. In this sculpture, Lincoln is portrayed heroically, holding a shield and wearing a laurel crown (popular in classical sculpture), yet dressed in contemporary attire. Ball himself posed for the crouching slave, claiming, "I had some difficulty in finding a good life model…So, as it was warm weather, I decided to constitute myself both model and modeler." However, in keeping with Ball's preference for naturalism, the head was based on a photograph of Archer Alexander, the last slave to be recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act. Alexander is depicted in the process of becoming free - still in manacles, with broken chains at his feet. Although this sculpture was conceived as an independent work, monumental versions were later placed in Washington, DC in 1876 and in Boston in 1877. Ball moved to Montclair the following year.
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