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Anne Whitney and the “Marmorean Flock”

Anne Whitney

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Anne Whitney, the Marmorean Flock, and Charles Sumner’s Legs

American women who wished to pursue careers in the fine arts faced many challenges in the mid-1800s. There were not very many art schools at all, and fewer that would consider admitting women and allowing them to study alongside men. Social norms often barred female sculpture students from the traditional methods of learning anatomy: drawing from live models, studying human bodies, and observing Classical examples. Nude statues in galleries were draped with cloth or modified with fig leaves.

After conquering these obstacles to become trained sculptors, women found more barriers ahead as they launched their careers and sought public commissions. Remarkably, the Capitol has two statues made by women before 1900: Anne Whitney’s "Samuel Adams" and Blanche Nevin’s "John P.G. Muhlenberg." While not as much is known about Nevin, Whitney’s experiences encapsulate the difficulties faced by the first women to become well-known American sculptors - who found they had to spend time abroad to be successful in America.

Guest Speaker: Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Professor of Art, Wellesley College

Anne Whitney

Drawing of Anne Whitney, 1821 - 1915
Courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library

Samuel Adams

The state of Massachusetts donated this statue of Samuel Adams, sculpted by Anne Whitney, to the National Statuary Hall Collection in 1876.

Adams served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1781, where he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. He is often referred to as the "Father of the American Revolution.”

Charles Sumner

Statue of Charles Sumner by Anne Whitney
Courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library

An anonymous sculptor submitted this design to a committee that rejected it when it was discovered that the sculptor was a woman. A group of friends later commissioned the work, and it was placed in Harvard Square. This statue now resides at Watertown Free Public Library.

Blanche Nevin

Blanche Nevin (1838-1925)
Courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol 

Nevin was the sculptor who created the marble statue of John P.G. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania for the National Statuary Hall Collection.