Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, American, 1830 - 1908
Overall: 27 1/2 × 19 × 9 1/2 in. (69.9 × 48.3 × 24.1 cm)
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through a gift from Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940
Place Made: United States, North America
Not on view
Inscribed, on reverse: HARRIET HOSMER / SCULPt ["t" is above horizontal line and two periods] / ROME
Harriet Hosmer was the most accomplished of several expatriate women sculptors working in the Neoclassical style in Rome during the mid-19th century. Although the bust’s generalized features and overall simplicity of form are characteristic of the restrained Neoclassical style, the parted lips and arched neck add a plaintive, expressive quality that can be seen as simultaneously looking back to Hellenistic and late Renaissance sculpture, and forward to a more Victorian taste for emotional expression.
Like most of Hosmer’s allegorical subjects, the mythological Medusa is a tragic female victim, depicted here at the moment of her transformation from a lovely mortal into a Gorgon—a snake-haired monster whose look turned men to stone. Some accounts describe Gorgons as having wings, which here frame Medusa’s head, giving her a majestic aura while emphasizing her otherworldliness. By portraying the transformed Medusa as still beautiful rather than hideous (a model drawn from Hellenistic art), Hosmer emphasizes the complex dual nature of this legendary figure. Seen as both victim and agent, she is seductive yet repellent, life-giving yet lethal—a reflection, perhaps, of the conflicting cultural attitudes toward womanhood often evidenced in 19th-century art and literature.
From the 2019 exhibition Emulating Antiquity: Nineteenth-Century European Sculpture, curated by Katherine W. Hart, Senior Curator of Collections and Barbara C. & Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming
HIST 27, WGST 23, Gender and Power in American History from the Colonial Period to the Civil War, Leslie Butler, Spring 2012
CLST 4, Classical Mythology, Pramit Chaudhuri, Summer 2014
ARTH 85, Senior Seminar in Theory and Method, Mary Coffey, Fall 2015
American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.
Critical Faculties: Teaching with the Hood's Collections, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 15-March 13, 2005.
December Treasure of the Month, Museum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg, Florida, December 1992.
Emulating Antiquity: Nineteenth-century European Sculpture, Engles Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-February 16, 2020.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 26, 1996-June 22, 1997.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 2, 2009-present.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 29, 2005-May 8, 2007.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 16, 1997-December 23, 2004.
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachussets, March 15, 2016-June 30, 2018.
Barbara MacAdam, Hosmer's Medusa acquired by Hood Museum, VOX, Volume XV, # 10, November 10-23, 1996, Hanover: Office of Public Affairs, Dartmouth College, p. 2
American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby's, May 22, 1996, Sale 6854, lot 108, illus.
Barbara J. MacAdam, Marks of Distinction, Two Hundred Years of American Drawings and Watercolors from the Hood Museum of Art, Manchester, Vermont: Hudson Hills Press, 2005, pp. 17, ill. p. 19, fig. 14.
Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 113, no. 86.
Barbara J. MacAdam, Building on Dartmouth's Historic American Collections: Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions since 1985, The Magazine Antiques, November 2007, New York: Brant Publications, color ill. p. 148.
Kate Culkin, Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography, Amherst and Boston, University of Massachusetts Press, 2010, 219 pp., B&W illustr. p. 110d., fig. 8.
John R. Stomberg, The Hood Now: Art and Inquiry at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2019, p. 120, ill. plate no. 51.
Sotheby's, Sale 6854, lot 108, May 22, 1996; Private Collection, Sarasota, Florida (presumably Mrs. Drew Peters); Drew Peters (art dealer in Philadelphia, ca. 1980); A.L. Burgress, Mt. Holly, New Jersey, 1968 (according to Sotheby's); Mr. and Mrs. Bullard, Brooklyn, New York, 1872 (listed in Sotheby's provenance, but not documented)
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