Eliza Ball Hughes (1807-1892) mentions the statue of The Dead Christ in the fourth installment of the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes on pp. 16-17:
Ball Hughes first studio in Boston was in Bromfield Hall. The following text appears to be from a 4-page brochure entitled The colossal statue of the dead Christ printed by Clapp & Son’s Press, 5 Water Street, available from The Boston Athenaeum:
“The Colossal Statue of the Dead Christ, by Ball Hughes, is Now Exhibiting at Bromfield Hall, Over the Church, Being the First Model Ever Exhibited, Made of American Clay: Open from 10 Till 6, and in the Evening from 7 Till 10 : Admittance 25 Cents”
The Anglo American - A Journal of Literature, News, Politics, the Fine Arts, Etc. Edited by A. D. Paterson, Volume 1, 1843 New York: E. L. Garvin & Co., June 3, 1843, p. 142:
The Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, Monday Morning July 31, 1843, Col. 2, records:
Good Old Dorchester, by William Dana Orcutt. Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, pp. 381-382, records:
and on p. 385:
According to the Wikipedia entry for The Boston Artists' Association, the 2nd Boston Artists’ Association exhibition was at Harding's Gallery in 1843, not the (Boston) Athenaeum. Fuller’s letter is dated August 1843, but he speaks of the second exhibition of the Boston Artists’ Association that “opens” on September 1st at the “Athenaeum.” Perhaps he had a sneak preview of the exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum. The Wikipedia entry may be in error regarding 2nd Boston Artists' Association Exhibition being at Harding’s Gallery?
Fuller had only recently become familiar with the Ball Hughes family, who moved to Boston in 1842. Fuller studied under Brown in Albany, NY for 9 months starting in the winter of 1841 until October 1842, before moving to Boston. The next two winters, he studied painting with the Boston Artists' Association.
According to the Wikipedia: “The Boston Artists' Association (1841-1851) was established in Boston, Massachusetts by Washington Allston, Henry Sargent, and other painters, sculptors, and architects, in order to organize exhibitions, a school, a workspace for members, and to promote art “for the art's sake.””
Ball Hughes’ eldest daughter, Georgina (1829-1911), exhibited at the Boston Art [sic] Assn. in 1843, the same year as this letter. She was 14 1/2 at the time.
The Mr. Carew mentioned above was Joseph Carew (c1820-1870), a Boston sculptor. Joseph Carew and George Fuller were on the list of members of the Association in 1842. It’s not known if Ball Hughes was ever a member.
Brown was in Italy, studying sculpture, when this letter was written. According to the Wikipedia for Henry Kirke Brown: “His equestrian statues are excellent, notably that of George Washington (1856) in Union Square, New York City, which was the second equestrian statue made in the United States...Brown was one of the first in America to cast his own bronzes.”
This letter is also partially quoted in George Fuller: His Life and Works, edited by Josiah B. Millet, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1886, p. 19:
An Obituary for Robert Ball Hughes from the Boston Daily Evening Transcript, Friday, March 6, 1868 recorded the following:
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in South Boston was completely destroyed by fire on September 7, 1848.
With only the title of the statue and no image of it, I wondered what I could write about. I have put together all the references here that I have found so far.
In the 1840’s only woodblock engravings were available and it appears that one of The Dead Christ existed. I need to find Brainard & Co.’s Literary Express, Issue No. 2 for the image of the statue.
The letter from George Fuller reinforced the rumors about Ball Hughes and alcohol. We didn't know about Mrs. Hughes’ involvement in keeping him in his studio before. That fits with Ball Hughes' reputation for being unreliable and Mrs. Hughes involvement in the family finances since they arrived in New York from London in 1829.
Despite being widely known for his famous works including the Monument to Rev. Hobart (1831) and the Statue of Alexander Hamilton (1835) in New York, he was well known in Boston for the statue of The Dead Christ and the Statue of Nathaniel Bowditch (1847) in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
Do you know where I can obtain an image of the woodblock engraving of The Dead Christ?
last update 11/8/2012
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012