DescriptionWorking Model for the Head of George Washington for the Princeton Battle Monument
Frederick William MacMonnies, American (1863-1937)
18 x 19 inches (45.7 x 48.3 cm)
A large plaster maquette for the Princeton Battle Monument, commemorating January 3, 1777, the day General George Washington led American soldiers to victory over British troops at the decisive Revolutionary War Battle of Princeton, the general and future president depicted in a tri-corner hat. The Princeton Battle Monument features George Washington in heroic high relief on a robust and impressive architectural mass; President Warren G. Harding was present for its 1922 dedication.
MacMonnies, during the execution of this bust and the final monument, had before him the famous George Washington bust by Houdon and the charming portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart. After completion of the sculpture, MacMonnies' plaster preliminaries were most likely sawn into pieces and returned to his studio in Greenwich Village, New York City. When MacMonnies died of pneumonia in 1937, his second wife sealed off his studio. She became increasingly reclusive and eccentric and in the 1950s she was placed into custodial care, at which point, MacMonnies' studio was opened and its contents were dispersed. According to Dr. E. Adina Gordon, newspaper accounts of the day report various sculptural elements left on the sidewalk and removed by family and passersby. It is assumed that this plaster head of Washington was among these works so dispersed.
MacMonnies was born in Brooklyn, New York; his mother was a niece of Benjamin West, known as the founding father of American painting. When MacMonnies was sixteen he was received as an apprentice in the studio of sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. In 1884 he went to Paris, briefly to Munich, and then became the most prominent pupil of Falguiere. In 1893, he was chosen to design and build the sixty-foot, electrified The Barge of State fountain containing thirty-eight figures for the Court of Honor at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago (Chicago World's Fair), which placed him instantly in the top tier. His largest work is a decoration for the Memorial Arch to Soldiers and Sailors in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, consisting of three enormous groups in bronze. Also in the same park appears MacMonnies' large Horse Tamer. Other notable sculptures include Nathan Hale in the City Hall Park, New York, Winged Victory at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, and Bacchante at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Included with the plaster is an out-of-print publication from The Art Museum of Princeton University, "Record," entitled "Frederick MacMonnies and the Princeton Battle Monument."
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