Appeal to the Great Spirit
1912; cast about 1922
Gift of Leslie P. Snow; S.928.15
Cyrus Dallin was born in Utah, and from his childhood friendships with Ute children he developed an enduring appreciation for Native Americans and their traditions. Although he was not immune to the romanticized objectification of American Indians that was commonplace in his era, Dallin attempted through his heroic sculpture to make better known the gross injustices inflicted upon Native Americans by non-Natives. This is the last in a series of magisterial equestrian sculptures that Dallin created to portray the evolving relationship between Native Americans and settlers in the American West. According to the artist these works display the four sequential aspects of this relationship: The Signal of Peace, or “the welcome” (1890); Medicine Man, or “the warning” (1899); The Protest, or “the defiance” (1904); and Appeal to the Great Spirit (1909), which refers to “the last hope of the Indian” as he turns to a higher authority in utter despair. In this, Dallin’s most famous work, he portrays the stereotypical pan-Indian warrior, his arms raised skyward in supplication. The fixed stance of the horse echoes the balanced, contemplative pose of its rider. Despite Dallin’s sympathetic intent, the work reinforces common nineteenth-century stereotypical romantic views of Native Americans—that their supposed freedom from the trappings of civilization made them fundamentally innocent and noble and that they were, as a race, defeated and on the verge of extinction. This bronze is a reduced version of the monumental cast of the work that stands in front of the entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. One of nine of this particular size, this reduction was originally lent to the College for exhibition in the newly opened Baker Library in 1928. The College purchased it later that year with funds donated by alumnus Judge Leslie P. Snow.
Last Updated: 4/29/09