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Bust of John Trumbull

Bust of John Trumbull
by Robert Ball Hughes, ca 1834
American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection, Photograph Archives, Smithsonian American Art Museum

    The photograph of the bust is from an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1935. The marble Bust of Trumbull is in classical drape with medal hanging from neckline of garment. Dimensions: 24 x 20 1/4 x 9 1/4 in. (61 x 51.4 x 23.5 cm). See the Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog listing on SIRIS.

The sculpture is now viewable online through the Yale University Art Gallery eCatalogue.

    The bust is located at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, CT and is currently not on view while the American galleries are being renovated.  According to Helen A. Cooper, The Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Yale University Art Gallery, "when the American galleries reopen in 2011, it will again have a place of honor in the Trumbull Gallery." 

According to the Yale University Art Gallery eCatalogue: 

"The British-born Hughes arrived in New York in 1829 and his credentials and technical proficiency immediately raised the standards for sculptors in New York. Among those he impressed was John Trumbull, President of the American Academy, who made him a sort of artist-in-residence, encouraging prominent New Yorkers to order portraits in lifesize plasters and marbles." 

"About 1833 Hughes commenced a bust of Trumbull; the result is arguably his finest sculpture. The dramatic portrait, which reflects the sitter's forceful and acerbic personality, represents Trumbull less as an artist than as an American colonel and patriot, with the badge of the Order of the Cincinnati prominently visible." 

    A picture of the bust and the following description also appears in Craven's 1968 & 1984 editions of, Sculpture in America, available at some libraries and used booksellers. 

    Wayne Craven in Sculpture in America, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1968 & 1984, p. 71 writes:

"The portrait bust was the type of sculpture most in demand, and Hughes created several in the early 1830's." ...  "Hughes carried portraiture in America to unparalleled heights in dramatic and heroic content In the bust he modeled (c. I834) of Colonel John Trumbull (Fig. 2. 12). The strength of character and dauntless spirit is combined with the hostile skepticism of the crotchety old painter. Hanging from the toga is the badge of the Order of the Cincinnati in which, fifty years after the Revolution, the old man still took justifiable pride. Several letters from the sculptor reveal the destitute condition of Hughes and his wife at this period. A number of his busts had been impounded to be sold if Hughes did not immediately pay his back rent, and he sent Trumbull a note with a touching plea for $10. On another occasion he pathetically wrote Trumbull, "Circumstances of a very peculiar nature forced me actually forced to draw on you for Fifteen Dollars on amount of Bust. Consider that sum as the balance for it, and forgive me for God sake the liberty I have taken. I could not my dear good Sir, avoid it." 


    See A Ball Hughes Correspondence for letters from the Ball Hughes to Col. Trumbull asking for financial help in the early 1830's.

    A poor image of the bust is available online in John Trumbull: A Brief Sketch of His Life, John F. Weir, 1901, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 42, through Google Books. 

See Col. John Trumbull on this website for more information about Trumbull. 


last update 3/28/2013

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