Francis Granger (1792 - 1868)
23 x 17 x 11 in. (58.4 x 43.2 x 27.9 cm)
(Woodstock, VT, 1805 - 1873, Florence, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Bequest of Antoinette Pierson Granger
Location: Not currently on view
“Now then for a small piece of vanity—Powers, the sculptor, is taking me in clay, to be wrought in marble in Italy next summer. If he does not get a perfect head, it will be his first failure.”
New York Congressman and Canandaigua resident Francis Granger was one of many prominent American politicians to sit for a classical-style portrait bust by Hiram Powers. Many Grand Tourists made Powers’ sculpture studio in Florence, Italy, a stop on their travels, to witness the artist at work, view his latest creations, or commission a personal artwork.
[Label text from It Came From the Vault exhibition, 2013]
Why do portrait busts often have blank eyeballs? Here’s one theory: originally, many ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were painted, including the eyes, but over the years the paint has faded so that by the 19th century, the eyes appeared to be blank. While 19th century artists often modeled their portrait busts of important political figures on these Classical forms, they did not know that the eyes had been painted originally, so they left them blank. Only with current technology has it been possible to understand how the older sculptures actually appeared.
The subject of this sculpture, Francis Granger (1792 – 1868), was born a decade after the American Revolution and died right after the Civil War. A congressman from nearby Canandaigua when he posed for this sculpture in 1837, he said: “Now then for a small piece of vanity – Powers, the sculptor, is taking me in clay, to be wrought in marble in Italy next summer. If he does not get a perfect head, it will be his first failure.”
[Gallery label text, 2009]