Thomas Ball first modeled this subject—an idealized bust of a pensive child—in the late 1860s in Florence where he lived and worked for many years. The marble’s termination is adorned with pansies, a traditional symbol of contemplation. The romantic conception, with the kind of obvious reference to premature ennui that was so admired in the Victorian era, proved to be one of Ball’s most popular: he created at least seven replicas of this sculpture between 1868 and 1875. Other examples are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, among others.
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Athenæum purchase, Susan Morse Hilles Fund for Art Acquisition, 2011