George Williams Lyman

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

about 1860

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

32 1/2 x 22 15/16 x 14 1/4 in. (82.5 x 58.3 x 36.2 cm) (integral base)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Credit Line

Gift of Reverend George Lyman Paine, 1940

Object Number

UH74

Carthaginian Girl

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1863

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

50 13/16 x 19 1/2 x 13 3/4 in. (129 x 49.5 x 35 cm)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Inscription

Inscribed on reverse: R. S. GREENOUGH. PARIS. 1863.

Credit Line

Bequest of Nabby Joy, 1869

Object Number

UH66

Thomas Handasyd Perkins

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

about 1846

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

19 7/8 x 16 7/16 x 2 3/16 in. (50.5 x 41.8 x 5.6 cm) (oval)

Description

Richard Greenough’s portrait of the Boston merchant and early supporter of the Boston Athenæum Thomas H. Perkins is typical of neoclassical relief portraits. The subject is shown bust-length, carved in comparatively low relief, and appears in profile, thereby affording a summation of facial features that, without benefit of color, aids readability. Neoclassical portraits are either idealized or, as here, somewhat ennobled by emphasizing the subject’s inherent dignity or suggesting the wisdom gained from age or experience. An ethereal quality is also suggested by the use of a round or, as here, oval frame.

Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.

Credit Line

Gift of the Mercantile Library Association, 1952

Object Number

UH47

Juliet

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1879

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm)

Description

Modeled in Rome, where Richard Greenough lived the last twenty years of his life, this diminutive bust of Shakespeare’s Juliet combines the sculptor’s considerable skill with his unabashed compliance with the contemporary taste for sentimental parlor pieces. Richard Greenough followed his high-minded older brother, Horatio Greenough, into sculpture, first earning recognition at the Boston Athenæum exhibition of 1844. (The Athenæum boasts nine works by Richard and six by Horatio.) In theory, Richard Greenough aspired to the neo-classical ideal, but his talent and disposition were such that he rarely strictly adhered, in either content or theme, to that style’s canon. His best works manifest a relaxed naturalism and remarkable warmth, while his less successful pieces display a struggle between his neo-classical aspirations and his sensual talent.

As the popularity of illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s plays reached its peak in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Bard’s heroines were particularly attractive subjects for visual representation. Greenough’s Juliet is simply an idealized female figure, connected to Shakespeare only by its title, with no inherent drama or specific period details. It is a facile piece by an aging sculptor, executed without the burden of his earlier ambition.

Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.

Inscription

Inscribed: “Juliet / R S Greenough S.C. / Roma 1879”

Credit Line

Gift of J. Tracy Wiggin, 1991

Object Number

UH203

Shepherd Boy and Eagle

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1853

Medium

Bronze

Dimensions

52 11/16 x 33 1/16 x 39 in. (133.8 x 83.9 x 99 cm)

Inscription

Inscribed on base: RICHARD S. GREENOUGH. FECIT. ROMA. 1853.

Credit Line

Gift of several subscribers, 1858

Object Number

UH157

William Hickling Prescott

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1844

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

29 5/16 x 18 x 15 3/8 in. (74.5 x 45.7 x 39 cm) (integral base)

Description
William H. Prescott (1796–1959) was one of the most respected American historians and intellectuals of the nineteenth century. Poor health, including faltering eyesight, prevented him from pursuing the law career for which he had trained at Harvard, and he turned to writing. He specialized in the history of Spain and its empire and published such classics as The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (1837) and The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843). In March 1844, shortly after the publication of the latter book, Prescott posed for this bust by Richard Greenough, brother of sculptor Horatio Greenough and one of Boston’s leading neoclassical sculptors at mid-century. Prescott immediately gave the bust to the Athenæum; it was the first work by Greenough to be exhibited here.
Inscription

Inscribed on reverse: R. S. GREENOUGH. FT 1844.

Credit Line

Gift of William Prescott, 1844

Object Number

UH144

William Hickling Prescott

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1844

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

29 5/16 x 17 15/16 x 15 3/8 in. (74.4 x 45.5 x 39 cm) (integral base)

Description
William H. Prescott (1796–1959) was one of the most respected American historians and intellectuals of the nineteenth century. Poor health, including faltering eyesight, prevented him from pursuing the law career for which he had trained at Harvard, and he turned to writing. He specialized in the history of Spain and its empire and published such classics as The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (1837) and The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843). In March 1844, shortly after the publication of the latter book, Prescott posed for this bust by Richard Greenough, brother of sculptor Horatio Greenough and one of Boston’s leading neoclassical sculptors at mid-century. Prescott immediately gave the bust to the Athenæum; it was the first work by Greenough to be exhibited here.
Inscription

Inscribed on reverse: R. S. GREENOUGH. FT 1844.

Credit Line

Gift of the estate of Samuel Eliot Morison, 1977

Object Number

UH145

Idealized Portrait of a Woman

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

1868

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

21 5/8 x 18 7/8 x 11 7/16 in. (54.9 x 48 x 29 cm)

Description

Although the subject of this bust is not known, it could easily be an allegory of one of the virtues or, more likely, one of any number of heroines from the types of literature popular among the neoclassicists including the plays of Shakespeare, the poems of Milton and Tennyson, the novels of Scott, or the classical myths as retold by Bulfinch. Further research into the iconography of the beautifully carved decorations on the subject’s garment and around the truncation may eventually reveal the idealized woman’s secret. What is known, thanks to an inscription on the bust, is that Richard Greenough carved it while he was living in Rome during the second half of the 1860s.

Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.

Inscription

Inscribed on reverse: R. S. GREENOUGH / SCT PARIS, 1868

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 1956

Object Number

UH125

Samuel May

Artist

Richard Saltonstall Greenough (American, 1819–1904)

Date

about 1846

Medium

Plaster

Dimensions

29 1/16 x 19 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. (73.8 x 49.5 x 29.8 cm)

Description
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Inscription

Inscribed on reverse: RICHARD S. GREENOUGH/FECIT.

Credit Line

Gift of the heirs of Samuel May, 1894

Object Number

UH109