: Dante vivo || White Silence






III. Joel Hart 

'Hiram Powers and Joel Tanner Hart: Two Sculptors, a Voyage from Cincinnati Ohio to Florence Italy and the Friendship that Developed'. Ted Gantz, Sculptor and Collector
'Joel Tanner Hart: A Kentucky Sculptor in Florence'. David Dearinger, Boston Athenaeaum.
"Daily Visiting My Studio": Joel Tanner Hart and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World'. Robert P. Murray, University of Kentucky.
'From Florence to Frankfort: Joel Hart's Re-interment'. Donald Williamson


Theodore A. Gantz is a professional sculptor who has been working in Cincinnati since 1970. His Studio operates under the name of Sycamore St. Studio, he and his partner Robert Dyehouse create sculpture, fountains, furniture, lighting and garden design by commission. Mr. Gantz is a collector with an important collection of American Sculpture consisting of works by Hiram Powers, Shobal Vail Clevenger, Thomas D. Jones, Chauney Ives, Augustus Brackett, Joseph Mozier, George Grey Barnard, Frederick MacMonnies, and others. The American collection is balanced by their contemporary nineteenth century Florentines, with works by Lorenzo Bartolini, Odoardo Fantocchiotti, and Pasquale Romanelli. Mr. Gantz has a Masters in art history and has been writing and lecturing on nineteenth century sculpture for the past 20 years. His writing and research have focused on the Cincinnati-Florence group of sculptors, particularly Hiram Powers and Shobal Clevenger. He has researched and lectured on the importance of the artist made plaster sculpture of the nineteenth century.


Hiram Powers and Joel Tanner Hart: two sculptors, a voyage from Cincinnati Ohio to Florence Italy and the friendship that developed.
Ted Gantz, Sculptor and Collector, Cincinnati. Paper.

Hiram Power’s (1801-1873) sculpture career benefited by him being in the right place at the right time.   Being in the city of Cincinnati in the eighteen twenties was a benefit in his struggle in learning how to become a sculptor. Later, Powers’ creation of the world famous sculpture, “The Greek Slave”, might not have happened had he not been in Florence, Italy in the eighteen forties.   Following in Power’s path, Joel Tanner Hart (1810-1877) came from Kentucky to Cincinnati in 1838 and he continued to Florence in 1849.   But these two cities had changed markedly over the ten to fifteen years that had passed, thus Hart’s experience was different than Powers.   This paper is going to look at the cultural and social climate of these two cities and examine how those forces shaped two sculptors.   Hiram Power’s (1801-1873) sculpture career benefited by him being in the right place at the right time.   Being in the city of Cincinnati in the eighteen twenties was a benefit in his struggle in learning how to become a sculptor. [1] Later, Powers’ creation of the world famous sculpture, “The Greek Slave”, might not have happened had he not been in Florence, Italy in the eighteen forties.   Following in Power’s path, Joel Tanner Hart (1810-1877) came from Kentucky to Cincinnati in 1838 and he continued to Florence in 1849.   But these two cities had changed markedly over the ten to fifteen years that had passed, thus Hart’s experience was different than Powers.   This paper is going to look at the cultural and social climate of these two cities and examine how those forces shaped two sculptors.  

Cincinnati was the city where both of these two men found the encouragement to peruse a career in sculpture.  Hiram Power’s family migrated to Cincinnati in 1818 which was the year the first steam powered boat travel up the river against the current to reach the river town.[2]    This event caused Cincinnati to grow in population, commerce and culture.   The city expanded rapidly over the next thirty years, as wealthy eastern families sent their children west to protect their family land grants awarded by U.S. Congress as payment for Revolutionary War debts.   These sons of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore brought with them a desire to create in Cincinnati the cultural institutions they had left behind and to compete with the advancement of colleges, hospitals, libraries and museums in their former cities.   Cincinnati expanded rapidly and by 1850 with 115, 000 people, it was the sixth largest city in the nation.   With this change it brought new wealth and the ability to transform Cincinnati from a frontier town into an important commercial city.

The community of Cincinnati staffed these fledgling institutions from all professions by hiring promising young Cincinnatians and also hiring talent from outside of the city.  Cincinnati’s first art teacher was Frederick Eckstein who migrated from Philadelphia in 1824.[3]  It was through his association with Eckstein that Powers began to study sculpture.   Hiram Power’s early works as a student of Eckstein are lost but from accounts of those who saw them, they it reveal that Powers was a talented man.   Nicholas Longworth[4], a prominent Cincinnatian, was so impressed he offered to send Powers to Italy.  Powers rejected his offer because he did not feel he had learned enough to make this move since he had just begun his sculpture studies.

Rejecting Longworth’s offer did not end their relationship, but was the beginning of a friendship.   Longworth a wealthy businessman began his local art collection when in 1829 he purchased Benjamin West’s impressive “Ophelia and Laertes”.  Jacob Hoffner and Jacob Burnet, other prominent Cincinnatians followed Longworth’s example and commissioned and collected art.  Fanny Trollope spent this period in Cincinnati and worked with Powers in the creation of a display based on Dante’s Inferno installed in Dorfeuille’s museum.[5] The elaborate Inferno was a depiction of Hell with figures modeled in wax and an electrified handrail which would shock unsuspecting visitors.

In this decade Americans were beginning to ask themselves, why we have American painters and no American sculptors.   America had had painters for generations with some achieving international prominence, yet the country had no American sculptors.   The new United States capital building in Washington D.C. was being adorned with sculpture commissioned and created by Italian sculptors.  Cincinnatian aware of Powers’ work were asking themselves “Are there others among us with these talents”.   So in the eighteen thirties into the sculpture world came the talents of Shobal Vail Clevenger, John Crookshank King, Augustus Brackett, Henry Kirk Brown, Joel Tanner Hart and Thomas D Jones a lot of whom were discovered in Cincinnati.   These men achieved reputations of national prominence as sculptors.   Other talented sculptors who never achieved careers of national celebrity were John Frankenstein (as a sculptor), Nathan Baker, John Whetstone, and Mrs. Caroline Wilson.  These artists worked out of improvised studios and exhibited their works in merchant shops since Fredrick Eckstein’s academy had closed in 1828.  Artistic reputations were built on social conversations and newspaper accounts of newly finished works.   The first art exhibitions were not held until 1839, after Powers had left Cincinnati.  Then four were held in rapid succession from 1839 to 1842.

Powers’ reputation grew as he traveled out of Cincinnati to Washington and up the east coast.   He collected portrait commissions as his stature as a sculptor grew.   Shobal Clevenger[6]  had his career begin when E.S. Thomas a newspaper publisher when passing the stone carving shop where Clevenger worked admired a cherub, and enquired who made it, Clevenger answered he had.   Thomas asked him to carve his portrait, which Clevenger did in the local freestone.   This brilliant young man followed in Powers’ footsteps, sharpening his talent in Cincinnati, then following Powers’ path through the eastern cities collecting commissions.  Clevenger in turn, when perusing a portrait commission in Kentucky in 1838, met Joel Tanner Hart, a young Kentucky stone carver and encouraged him to come to Cincinnati.   Both Clevenger and Hart eventually followed Powers to Florence.

In the 1830’s Cincinnati was full of enthusiasm.   The newspapers in the city reported the progress and completion of new works of sculpture.  “Powers bust of Daniel Webster has just been completed in Washington.”   “Clevenger has just completed a portrait of Henry Clay (who was he?) we understand that plaster casts of it can be had for the very low price of ten dollars each.” [7]   “Native Genius: We have lately made a visit to the studio of Mr. Joel T. Hart, sculptor, at the south-east corner of Seventh and Race streets. Mr. Hart has spent some months,… (modeling Henry Clay)[8] and has produced several copies, which he now has ready for delivery…. They are excellent and striking likenesses, superior to any we have seen—that by Powers we have not seen;[9]  but neither pencil, chisel nor graver has ever produced any likeness that we have ever seen so highly polished, or so correct as those of Mr. Hart.”[10]    But this enthusiasm was not backed by action since the first sculpture acquired by the city was not until 1843.   This public subscription was undertaken to acquire Clevenger’s marble bust of William Henry Harrison, carved in Florence and acquired from Clevenger’s widow in 1843 after his untimely death.   The struggle to fulfill the subscription was hard and Longworth repeatedly gave additional funds and cajoled members of the community to make it happen.

Powers was certainly the catalysts which spurred Cincinnatians to begin the search to find other sculptural talent in the eighteen thirties.   Hart’s career was also a fruit of this unique decade in the city, but Cincinnati is only part of the story, Italy is the other part.   Rome was the artistic capital of the world in this period.   Most of the fine arts academics in Europe ended their period of study with a competition among the students and the winners of these competitions were sent to Rome for a period of extended study.   Rome had been and still was the center of artistic, philosophical discourse, the youngest and brightest talents of Europe gathered together, Germans, French, and English,  painters, sculptors, architects, and others representing all of the artistic disciplines.[11]   This was the natural destination for Powers, yet he chose Florence, and in so doing, other American sculptors followed him.   Powers choice of Florence became an important influence on him, he learned a great deal which helped him in the creation of the “Greek Slave”. 

Why did Powers pick Florence? The answer is Horatio Greenough,[12] the young sculptor from Boston.   He was older than Powers and Powers met him in 1837 when Greenough received his first commission from the United States government.   Powers was collecting his portrait commissions on the east coast and Greenough had returned from Italy to conduct business concerning his sculpture before returning to Italy.  Powers, impressed by Greenough, took his advice.   Greenough came from a very different background than Powers and was educated at Harvard University.   He perused a career in sculpture and in 1825 left for Rome, where he studied for several years.  

Rome was a city which was dominated by the presence of the Danish Sculptor Albert Bertel Thorwaldsen.   Antonio Canova had died in 1822 and Thorwaldsen had taken on the mantle as the most important neoclassic practitioner of sculpture.   The austere neoclassicism of Thorwaldsen’s sculpture  had a cold northern reserve, when compared to the softer romantic classicism of Canova.  Thorwaldsen’s theory was the prevailing tone dominating the many sculptor’s studios which proliferated in the city.  Greenough spent a year and a half in Rome and began to feel that this austerity was not compatible with the American naturalism he sought to include in his work. 

The other school of thought concerning sculpture was rapidly developing in Florence where Greenough settled in 1828.  The Accademia delle Belle Arti del Disegno di Firenze’s sculpture department was increasingly coming under the influence of Lorenzo Bartolini.[13]   Bartolini had had an important career during Napoleon’s reign as director of the academy in Cararra, but was removed after Napoleons’ fall.   Bartolini floundered for a decade working in England and even considered coming to the United States to work on the U.S. Capital building.  In the 1820’s he finally was given a post in the department of sculpture at the academy in Florence.   Bartolini struggled with the tenents of this austere classicism, because he desired to infuse into it a “naturalism”.   His goal was not to isolate just the most beautiful aspects to be found in nature but to study all aspects, the beautiful, the ugly, and the deformed.   Bartolini’s interests were drawn from the German “Nazarene” movement which was a search for the “pure” and the “primitive”. It was focused on a study of Raphael and the Italian renaissance in Florence.   Bartolini’s philosophies appealed to Greenough and brought him to Florence where he studied and worked till his death in 1852.   It was Greenough’s experience and belief in Bartolini that brought Powers to Florence in 1838.

These last few years of the 1830’s and the 1840’s were an exciting time in Florence both for the city intellectually and for the pursuit of sculpture. Stefano Ricci the head of the sculpture department at the Florentine academy had died. He had been a classicist in the Thorwaldsen vein and of moderate talent, Bartolini moved up to become head of the department. The Academy consisted of a school of painting, architecture, drawing and sculpture. Each department had twelve professors who composed the faculty, four of these professors taught and the other eight were responsible for consultation in the annual and biannual competitions. Their other responsibilities as a body of twelve was to consult and recommend to the Tuscan government on public works in their field newly commissioned works and maintenance of works.

 Powers arrived in Florence in 1838 the year that Bartolini took over as head of the sculpture department at the academy and begins major changes in the department. Bartolini introduces a study of naturalism into the classroom as a formal part of the curriculum, which had only been unofficially offered when Greenough was studying. Bartolini was intrigued by the American sculptors Greenough and Powers. For Bartolini, Powers must have seemed a fresh and natural talent since he had not come from the traditional European academic training system. Powers self-trained naturalism was what interested Bartolini. At this time Bartolini introduced into the classroom a hunchback as a model, because he wished for students to study nature in all its fullness. This not only produced a scandal with the old academics but became a subject of broad public comment and discussion in newspaper articles.[14]

As Powers settles down into the life of the city, his appearance did not go unnoticed, he slips into the artistic life of the city. He works hard and learns. His natural talents are infused with the ideas of Bartolini. From his letters it is difficult to understand the full interaction he had with the other sculptors, but from what happened next it is evident that Powers was very active and aware of what was happening in the sculptural world of Florence.

Bartolini as head of the department makes Greenough a professor, in September of 1840 and a year latter Powers was appointed a professor, in September of 1841. Their type of appointment makes them professors who are active in the department of sculpture. Understand, we are not talking about membership in the academy which was usually an honorary membership as given by the Florence Academy and by many other academies to notable men. Powers and Greenough were made two of the twelve professors involved in the active management of the sculpture department. Making a foreigner a full professor of the department was an extremely rare occurrence. All the full professors had to be residents of Florence. This position meant that Powers and Greenough were interacting with Bartolini and his classroom.

Throughout the eighteen forties Powers exhibited at the academy exhibitions and attended the annual student jurying for prizes. Powers would have been well aware of  the important works of sculpture created by Bartolini’s students, such as the “Abele” by Giovanni Dupre. It was his exposure to the excitement of these new ideas, developing in his mind that led to the creation of his first ideal works and ultimately would result in the creation of the “Greek Slave”.[15]

Florence in the forties was a city of intellectual excitement. The Grand Duke in 1839 ordered the construction of the “Tribuna di Galileo,” an elaborate series of ornamented rooms celebrating the sciences and abutted the museum which held many scientific collections. The sculptural program in these rooms is impressive.[16] The “Tribuna” was completed for the “Third Conference of Italian Scientists” held in Florence in 1842. These wonderful rooms with their sculptural embellishments were the site were Powers and Fanny Trollope were reunited in 1842 for the first time since their collaboration on Danti’s Inferno in Cincinnati. The other noteworthy sculptural event of these years was the ongoing commissions for the sculptures for the exterior gallery of the Uffizi. The sculptures, which now adorn the niches consist of a Tuscan Pantheon, celebrating Tuscany’s great men.  The commissions for the statues went to Florentine sculptors. The 28 sculptures were created throughout the forties and into the fifties.[17] Although the commissions were given through a separate commission, the department of sculpture in the academy was involved in some minor management of the project.

 During the eighteen forties Powers was very active in the Italian community this began to be a problem for him. The concept of Powers as an American isolated from the Italia arts community is unfounded, it is in part encouraged by Powers himself in defense of his Americanism and a fear of his being viewed as becoming too Italian. The need for a strong American façade was paramount to his maintaining his American clientele. The façade became stronger the longer Powers remained in Florence justifying his Americanism but never returning to America.

  In the eighteen forties Powers produced his most significant work, “The Fisher Boy”, “Eve Tempted”, “America” and the “Greek Slave”. In this decade Bartolini’s most notable contribution is the monument to “Contessa Sofia Zamoyska” in the Basilica of Santa Croce.  For Powers there were commissions from Prince Demidoff, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and Prince Bonaparte.

 But it was not to last. The revolutions that swept Europe in 1848 and 1849, came also to Tuscany. The Grand Duke, who had fled Tuscany, returned to Florence after his exile a changed man, his liberal feelings swept away. The fifties were a decade of repression and intellectual stagnation. The death of Bartolini in 1850 and Greenough’s return to America and subsequent death, changed the nature of the city for Powers. Florence's decade of importance as a center of sculptural study rapidly dwindled.

The political changes affected not just Florence but also Rome. The previously progressive attitude of the Pope changed as it had with the Grand Duke. Both returned to power with the help of Austrian and French troops; Italy was occupied and controlled by foreign armies. The centers of art were beginning to shift north.

Hart was thirty nine years of age when he arrives in Florence, Powers had been thirty three. In 1849 Hart finds a city defeated and repressed.  Did Hart choose Florence because of Powers? Certainly others from the Cincinnati background followed Powers, Shobal Clevenger in 1840, Henry Kirk Brown in 1842, Nathan Baker and Joseph Mozier. They of course knew Florence in this period of cultural excitement, heightened by the increasing fame of Powers. The fame of the “Greek Slave” and Powers’ international prominence by the end of the 1840’s certainly attracted other American Sculptors. Of course Italy also provided the American sculptor access to marble, craftsmen and museums, all unavailable in the United States. The next generation of American artists knew it also offered exceptional art training in its academies, a level of study not available in America. This generation began to gravitate not to Rome but to the academies in Munich and Düsseldorf.

 In the nineteenth century Florence had a large English population, by some estimates a third of the population. The British maintained a society apart from the Italians and the American colony followed the British example. The English speaking community maintained its own clubs, schools and churches. This tendency of separation becomes increasing true also for the American artists after the 1850s. The interaction of Italian and American artists true of the eighteen forties ceases. Italian sculpture also enters into a period of little artistic advancement, particularly in Florence, which is dominated by a style of pictorial and genre sculpture. 

 Looking at Powers’ client list and the commissions for portraits is revealing. When Powers left America for Florence in 1838 he had worked on and received about fifty-two portrait commissions. Many of these would be executed in marble. Powers received approximately forty-two portrait commissions in the next decade, from the time he arrived in Italy up to 1850. The only Italian portrait commissions he received in his career were all ordered in the 1840’s, five in all.  In this decade he starts to receive commissions from the British community in Florence, five in the 1840’s. In the 1850’s Powers received thirty-one portrait commissions four from British clients, the rest Americans. During the American Civil war he had only sixteen portrait commissions, of these seven were British, the nine American commissions were clients attached to the American legation in Florence or Americans living in Europe, including two memorial pieces, and one from a traveling American. From 1865 to 1870 he had twenty-five portrait commissions with twenty additional in the last three years of his life, of these forty five portraits only five were British. Powers received a total of  about one hundred and six portrait commissions in his career. His studio produced about five hundred and twenty ideal busts of his various subjects and about thirty-one life size statues in marble.[18]

When he arrived in Florence, Hart had worked on about 18 portrait commissions, but his focus was on his standing life size statue of “Henry Clay”. During the 1850’s he worked on about nineteen commissions, many of them portraits. With the coming of the Civil War the commissions disappeared and for the remainder of his life he had few new commissions. Over all he received about forty-three portrait commissions and three commissions for the full size Clay statue. He created three ideal subjects.[19] His last work “Woman Triumphant” was started in the early 1860’s and he began to put it into marble in 1876; however he died before it was completed.

The production figures of Powers’ studio are staggering.  In the 1850’s the number of commissions for Hart seem to suggest that he might develop a successful studio business in Florence. The market was one of wealthy traveling Americans. The advent of the steam ship was changing the way people traveled. The days of passenger sailing ships requiring thirty or more days for an Atlantic crossing, depending on wind and weather, were passing. By 1851 Cornelius Vanderbilt’s 270 foot steam yacht the “North Star”,  took ten days for the New York, Southampton crossing. Europe was becoming available to the wealthy tourist as a vacation spot, you could get there and back without dedicating a half year or more for that once in a life time experience of a grand tour.

Wealthy tourists visiting Florence or Rome might consider sitting for a portrait. In Florence, the sculptor’s studios were set up to cater to this commerce. Powers, Chauncey Ives, Thomas Ball, Hart and others all developed and worked this trade. It was because of this commerce that Powers, displaying the busts of “The Greek Slave” and other ideal works in his studio, was able to sell an astonishing five hundred and twenty of these busts. The rational for the selection of one sculptor over another is problematic, fame, mutual friends or perhaps sculptor and client were from the same town. Cornelius Vanderbilt decided to sit for Powers, Mrs. Vanderbilt with Hart.

After arriving in Florence, Hart developed a friendship with Powers, which continued until Powers’ death. The 1850’s in Florence could not have been for Hart the opportunity it was for Powers in the 1840’s. Powers had learned artistic lessons. The “Greek Slave” excited the European and American public, because it was new in presentation and expression, and a change from the neoclassic idiom. This is difficult to perceive looking back from our perspective. Perhaps Hart was not aware of the profound changes in Florence or at forty was not interested in the changing philosophies of art. Perhaps he felt Hiram Powers the famous sculptor would act as a professor, but even Powers was fixed in his style by this point, the art world had moved on.

There are other interesting similarities between the two men, they came from a background of the same friends in Cincinnati and both dabbled as inventors, a passion shared by many Americans in the nineteenth century. They both invented a pointing  machine. A pointing machine allows the sculptor’s assistants to accurately transfer from a plaster model to a block of marble the position and depth of the cuts necessary to copy the model in marble. Most successful sculptors employed assistants to transfer their sculptures’ finished idea into marble. The working process was for the sculptor to model the subject in clay, capturing in this malleable medium the essence of his thoughts and expression. For most sculptors this was the creative essence of their art. Because of the fragile nature of the clay model a plaster cast was made reproducing the clay exactly. In some cases the artist continued to model on the plaster cast, adding plaster and removing it. At this point the plaster was given to the carvers, and they began to copy the plaster cast by carving it in a block of marble. The pointing tool was the measuring devise used to determine the cutting of the marble, how much to remove, and how to arrive at the proper depth of cut. Pointing tools had been widely used for hundreds of years, with artists often improving on the design. Powers had refined a design for his pointing machine.

Hart also invented a pointing machine. Hart’s curious machine was used to take a reading from the human head and transfer it to the clay. This machine was so complicated in design and use that it startled the various sitters who agreed to submit to it. In an odd way Hart’s invention is like a mechanical photographic process intending to replicate in three dimensions. He would seem to be removing the art from the process and reducing the sculpture to a mere mechanical copy of the sitter. The debate about portrait photography and the painted portrait was becoming current at this time. Powers’ work represents some of the finest portraiture produced in the nineteenth century. He understands that the portrait is an expression of the personality of the sitter, and not as a mere copy of the sitter’s head. Powers’ works are both sensitive and creative.

As Hart’s machine is confusing, what was his intent?  Critics in his day suggest he relied on it to the extent of taking the art out of his sculpture. He certainly used it on clients to take dimensions for the clay. His claim that it primarily served to expedite the copying of antique sculpture for clients, does not explain why he used it to work with clay and a living model. The lessons learned in the sculptors modeling classes at the art schools were the background of the professional sculptor. Hart did not have this training. Hart’s complicated machine would seem to just get in the way. [20] Powers had begun his studies of sculpture modeling first in wax, then in clay. Hart, like Shobal Vail Clevenger, began as a stone carver.  Clevenger at the beginning of his career had executed the first eight or nine of his portraits in Ohio sandstone, carving directly without the use of a plaster model. Nicholas Longworth admonished Clevenger about this. Clevenger then began modeling, and conserving the models in plaster until he arrived in Italy where he would then carve them in marble. Carving is the process of removing material to arrive at the sculpture, while modeling is building up to arrive at the sculpture, two opposite approaches arriving at the same end. Did Hart’s lack of academic training, mean that he found modeling a challenge? Powers in his early years modeled in wax, arriving at a point of proficiency where he created very lifelike heads, in the vein of Madam Tussaud.  No matter the cause, Hart’s portrait commissions dried up. Perhaps it was just the loss of the American tourist trade caused by the Civil War. After the war Hart’s career never recovered.

In the eighteen-sixties Florence was undergoing still another change, Italy’s civil war, the War of Unification (1859-61), had made Florence the capital of Italy in 1864. The city began to fill with the new Italian bureaucrats coming from all over Italy. The new capital needed to look like a capital, the city walls were knocked down, new squares were created and new suburbias designed. Powers built his new home in one of these newly opened areas.

 Florence was still a tourist center and the American tourists returned. Powers’ business was booming. But Hart was struggling, he did not have the resources or the reputation that Powers had. Again the city was vibrant. Powers continued to be involved in the Academy where he attended the voting for the prizes. Powers’ daughter had married an English industrialist and built an extensive estate next to Powers’ villa.  Thomas Ball’s villa and studio were behind Powers’ villa, Powers son’s house was across the street. This area under Poggio Imperiale became and continues to be a quarter of artists. Powers lived here until his death in 1873 when he was interred in the Protestant cemetery. After Powers’ death Hart and Thomas Ball took a death mask from Powers, a practice requiring wet plaster to be applied over the face of the dead Powers, removing it after it had hardened. The plaster was used as a mold to cast a likeness of the deceased.

Hart lived another four years but remained poor with little work. Though his statue of Henry Clay was executed in three versions, he never succeeded in other public commissions. Even Hart’s ideal sculpture “Woman Triumphant”, over which he labored 18 years, was incomplete when he died. Hart’s last illness found him suffering from cold in his unheated studio, which served as a living space. For his last days friends moved him into a hotel.  After his death money was raised to complete the carving of “Woman Triumphant” and it was placed in the Kentucky State Capital Building. The Capital building burned shortly thereafter and the sculpture was destroyed. Like Powers, Hart also was buried in the Protestant Cemetery. Later, in 1887, a group brought Hart’s body back to Kentucky and he was reburied with great fanfare. The contrast of the two sculptors is stark, Powers became a master sculptor, helped by being in the right places at the right times. Hart on the other hand, perhaps not as talented and certainly not as well trained as Powers, arrived too late in both Cincinnati and Florence.

1. Hiram Powers and his wife. Circa 1870, from a nineteenth century engraving.

2. Joel Tanner Hart

3. The “Greek Slave”, by Hiram Powers at an early exhibition, from a nineteenth century engraving.

4.  “Henry Clay”, by Joel Tanner Hart, from a nineteenth century engraving.

5. Hart’s pointing machine as illustrated in a magazine article.

6. “Woman Triumphant” by Joel Tanner Hart

[1] See Rebecca Reynolds, “Almost a Buckeye, Hiram Powers and Cincinnati, His Adopted Hometown” Hiram Powers: Genius in Marble, Cincinnati, Taft Museum 2007, pp 29-42.

[2] Richard Wunder, Hiram Powers Vermont Sculptor, 1805-1873, Newark, University of Delaware Press 1991. This is the basic catalogue resume for a look a Powers career.

[3] Ophia D. Smith, “Frederick Eckstein, The Father of Cincinnati Art”, Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio Oct. 1951 Vol. 9, No. 4,  pp. 266-282.

[4] Longworth built his fortune during the twenties and was active as a promoter of the arts and letters from this period on. His collection consisted of Cincinnati Artists, Painters and sculptors as well as other American and European works. Object from the collections were included in the first art exhibitions held in Cincinnati in the late eighteen thirties and forties.  His collection was built on by his son and part of it is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Newark Art Museum. Longworth’s 1820 home is now the Taft Art Museum houses the art collection of  Anna Sinton and Charles Phelps Taft.    

[5] Thomas Adolphus Trollope, What I Remember, New York: Harpers and brothers, 1888, p. 124.

[6] A full study of Clevenger has not been published yet, only a limited number of his works are located.  He developed an illness in 1843 and started to return to the United States and died on shipboard. Powers finished a number of Clevenger's commissioned portraits left unfinished in Florence. Clevenger was a brilliant sculptor and might have achieved a successful and brilliant career, as evidenced by the last work in marble that he finished, a portrait of William Henry Harrison, now in the Mercantile Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.

[7]“ Cincinnati Wig and Commercial Intel”,  August 24 1837, p.202.

[8] Henry Clay was an important politician from Lexington Kentucky. He rose to national prominence as an important speaker in the Congress.

[9] Powers did not do a bust of Clay but did finish Clevenger’s Clay busts in marble

[10] (Cincinnati) “ Advertiser and Journal”,  April 19 1839, p.263.

[11] Catalogue, Maesta di Roma Da Napoleone All’unita D’Italia,  (various authors) 2003 Mondadori. Is an excellent source to understand the complexity and richness of the Roman art scene.

[12] Wright, Nathalia, Horatio Greenough The first American Sculptor, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania 1963. This is a good biography of  the sculptor.

[13] There are a number of biographies on Bartolini, the exhibition catalogue, Lorenzo Bartolini, Mostra della attivita di tutela Prato, Palazzo Pretorio Febbraio-maggio, Centro Di, 1978. This consists of a number of articles some of which deal with this period.

[14]Bartolini, op. cit. Lorenzo Bartolini e il dibattito teorico sull’imitazione artistica della natura, pp100-104.

[15] See Francesca Petrucci’s paper  “Powers nella Firenze degli Anni Quaranta” in, Hiram Powers a Firenze atti del Convegno di Studi nel Bicentenario della nascita (1805-2005), A cura di Caterina del Vivo. Leo S. Olschki, 2007.

[16] Alessandro Gambuti, La Tribuna di Galileo, Alinea Firenze. 1990.

[17] Stefania Iacopozzi, Statues for the Uffizi: “The Tuscan Pantheon”, Alinea, Firenze, 2000.

[18] This is a summation of the listing of Richard Wonder, op. cit. II, Catalogue of Works, Newark University Press, 1991.

[19] I am using David Dearinger’s list of works found in his master thesis, Joel Tanner Hart, American Sculptor, (The City University of New York City, 1984).

[20] The photo of the machine comes from a magazine article, the devise’s current location is unknown.


Joel Tanner Hart: A Kentucky Sculptor in Florence
David B. Dearinger, Boston Athenaeum. Abstract.

Joel Tanner Hart (1810-1877) was born in rural Kentucky less than two decades after that territory became a state. During his early maturity, he supported himself as a stone mason, bricklayer, and carver of stone and wood. Eventually, he landed a fairly lucrative job in a marble yard in the state’s largest city Lexington, a burgeoning town with at least the early stirrings of a cultural life. But in a type of story often cited, accurately or not, as typically American, Hart had dreams of becoming a professional artist. Finding inspiration and training where he could, he eventually was able to advance himself from his early craftsman status to that of an internationally recognized sculptor.

In 1849, Hart left Kentucky for Florence, primarily to fulfill a commission for a public monument to the American statesman Henry Clay. He immediately became a part of—and eventually a fixture in—the Anglo-American community of expatriate artists and writers there; he lived there the rest of his life. Within a few years, the contemporary press was noting Hart’s participation in the artistic community in Italy and lauding him for his selflessness toward his fellow artists. “Americans [in Florence] have remarked with animated expressions of regard for him,” noted one art journal, “that, insensible of his own merits, his earliest efforts [were] directed to making known the merits of his brother artists, and to putting profitable commissions in their hands.” Meanwhile, Hart himself was achieving some renown for the quality of his portrait busts as well as for his poetry and his experimentations with the sculpting device known as the pointing machine.

Throughout his adult life, however, Hart was plagued with bad health, an inferiority complex, the curse of procrastination, and various
personal disasters. His forays into the “higher” forms of sculpture—the more purely neoclassical ideal works with ancient or literary
themes—were halting and, in the end, disappointing.

This paper will briefly describe Hart’s connections to and role in the Florentine expatriate community, the professional promise that those connections implied, and the reasons that the potential suggested by his early successes remained unfulfilled. His work for several tombs in the English Cemetery in Florence, the story of his own burial in and eventual removal from that cemetery, as well as his strained relationship with his nephew Robert Hart, who had sculptural aspirations of his own, will also be discussed.


'"Daily Visiting My Studio": Joel Tanner Hart and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World
Robert P. Murray, University of Kentucky. Abstract.

Today, Joel Tanner Hart is remembered (if he is at all) as a mid-nineteenth century American expatriate sculptor particularly adept at busts. Like examinations of most artists, biographical accounts of Hart’s life tend toward chronological timelines of his artwork. Hart’s remarkable transition from Kentucky chimney builder to Florentine artist is usually presented with the advantage of hindsight: his brilliance was recognized by wealthy patrons and naturally there was no city on earth better for an aspiring sculptor than Florence. However, it was not so simple. Rather, this paper argues that the peculiarities of Hart’s early patrons—Upper South Whigs—and his upbringing in the transnational world of letters that they crafted provided the necessary tools for this working-class autodidactic artist to relocate across the ocean. Hart then can be conceptualized as a physical embodiment of a larger mid-nineteenth century transatlantic exchange of ideas. Not only did Hart cross the Atlantic numerous times (appropriately, his final trip years after his death when Kentucky reclaimed his body from the English Cemetery in Florence for final internment in the commonwealth), but he maintained a steady correspondence with friends and associates in America. But Hart was not simply a passive vessel floating on this ocean of transatlantic information. He was also a central point of contact within this transnational network as he off-handedly mentioned in an 1858 letter to a friend in Lexington, Kentucky: “A great many Americans and English & c., are daily visiting my studio.”[1] Bringing the interpretive lens to Hart offers the opportunity to examine the personal effects of the nineteenth century’s macro-movements of industrialism, migration, and technological innovations that improved transatlantic communication. Hart rarely enclosed European news in his letters back to America because of these growing transatlantic networks. “I would send you news,” he wrote Louisville’s H. C. Pindell, “but newspapers get ahead of my letters.”[2]           

As an exploration of transatlantic connections centered on Joel T. Hart, my paper is heavily indebted to Daniel T. Rodgers’s Atlantic Crossings and the Michael O’Brien’s Conjectures of Orders. However, this case-study of Hart modifies and expands their scholarship. Rodgers argues that New World Exceptionalism structured the American/European relationship as “starkly oppositional” until the last quarter of the century.[3] The arrival of Hart before the American Civil War and the “great many Americans” who daily arrived at his studio suggests that mid-nineteenth century Europe and the United States shared a more complicated relationship than a purely oppositional one. O’Brien’s intellectual history of the American South strikes closer to Hart by exploring the European roots of southern thought and the European travels of well-to-do southerners. O’Brien, however, is primarily interested in the discourse of wealthy merchants and their sons from the Deep South and port cities (Charleston, South Carolina is particularly well represented in his two-volume work). Impoverished Hart with three months of formal education from the Upper South does not fit well into O’Brien’s focus on wayfaring parvenus. An exploration of Joel T. Hart alters Rodgers’s timeline for a nineteenth century Atlantic community while increasing our understanding of the dynamic relationship between Europe and the United States.

[1] Joel Tanner Hart to John S. Wilson, November 28, 1858.

[2] Joel Tanner Hart to H. C. Pendell, November 18, 1867.

[3] Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998), 34.


Donald and Mary Williamson are descendants of Joel Tanner Hart's family and custodians of the family's tombs. Members of Aureo Anello, they give here much documentation concerning Hart's posthumous fame in the State of Kentucky.

From Florence to Frankfort: The Reinterment of Joel Tanner Hart
Donald Williamson, Winchester, Kentucky. Paper.


Joel Tanner Hart was born February 11, 1810, the son of Josiah Hart and Judith (Tanner) Hart in Clark County, Kentucky.  Josiah and Judith were pioneers of what was considered the western frontier in the very late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, coming to Kentucky not long after Daniel Boone started Boonesboro.  Due to business misfortunes of his father, Joel Hart had very little opportunity for a formal education, although he made every attempt to gain an education whenever the opportunity allowed it.  His mother died when he was fifteen, and his father was living with the Tanner family so Joel left the sense of security of home life to start a life for himself.  He started in Bourbon County, Kentucky building stone fences, and not long after, moved to Lexington, Kentucky to work as a stone mason.  His work flourished, and it was noticed by those that were interested in the ideal art.  He soon had made contacts with clients to make busts of well known leaders in the United States.

Just like his works of sculpture, Joel Hart also flourished.  He traveled to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and other major cities making a name for himself and his artwork.  While in Richmond, VA., he contracted to do a full size sculpture of Henry Clay.  This decision moved his operations to Florence, Italy in 1849.  After a number of setbacks, he completed his Clay statue, and in 1860, returned to the United States to be at its unveiling ceremony.  He brought with him two small granite grave markets that he had made, and placed them at the gravesites of his parents.  Also, while in Italy, he contracted for many other busts, full size statues, and started on his dream work which he first called both “Chastity“ and “Purity“, and eventually named it “Woman Triumphant.”  Unfortunately, he never lived long enough to see this work completed, but as he had requested in his will, his student and associate, George Saul, put it into marble. The farm boy who was born in Clark county, the fence builder of Bourbon county, the stonemason of Lexington, and one of the greatest sculptors the world has ever known died on March 2, 1877.


Mr. C. Frank Dunn of the Lexington Herald, Lexington, Kentucky, wrote a news article entitled “Original plaster model of Joel T. Hart’s noted masterpiece, which once adorned Fayette County Court House, is still sought.”  This article was published either January or February 6th, 1938 (The date is partially covered over and reads, “ARY 6, 1938), and within its content, Mr. Dunn makes mention of items in Joel T. Hart’s will.  I have attempted to put this information together in list form, obviously not in it’s original nor complete form.  The parts of the will that are mentioned in this article are as follows:

DATE OF WILL:  FEBRUARY 18, 1877 -- [twelve days before his death] 

“I, Joel T. Hart, son of Josiah and Judith Hart, of Clark county, state of Kentucky, United States of America, having been for the last twenty-seven years domiciled in Florence, Italy,”

Mr. Hart first asked that “Woman Triumphant” be completed, giving detailed instructions to that effect, and sold “for the largest sum in Europe or America.”  From the proceeds he directed that “a marble block shall be bought and the workmen paid for the production of another group of the same with his name and the date engraved thereon, for fear the one now being finished may be lost.”  [The second group was never done.]

The will directs the executor to give $700 to Miss Rachel Pomeroy, of Cambridge, Mass., to publish his poems.  [It is not known if the $700 was sent to Ms. Pomeroy, and a book of his poetry was never published.]

To George H. Saul, English sculptor who resided in Florence and who was Hart’s assistant, he bequeathed valuable apparatus and “all of my plaster portrait busts of Gen. Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Gen. James Taylor, Robert Wickliffe, J. J. Crittenden, Rev. Alexander Campbell, Erasmus Bigelow, Dr. G. W. Dudley, J. Wasen Grigsby, Genieve Ward and Nicholas Smith; all the other portraits in plaster, together with the plaster statue of Henry Clay, to be broken up and destroyed.”

He bequeathed to Henry J. Pindell, of Louisville, Ky., “all my letters from distinguished men to be used if desired in a sketch of my life.”  He included his poems, fables and other works of this kind.  [Mr. Pindell died before he could do anything about assisting in the publishing of Hart’s poems.]

To Mr. Pindell he also gave “one of the two original plaster copies of my ideal group above mentioned, called ‘Woman Triumphant,’”  specifying that Mr. Pindell was to receive the one he described as “Number One” with “the arm of Cupid raised.”  In what he termed as “Number Two” he said “the arm is down.”  One copy in plaster of “Morning Glory” also was given to Mr. Pindell.  “These copies,” the will said, “are to be reproduced as he may direct in marble and sold by him to pay for printing and publishing one volume of my best poems.”  The bequest to Mr. Pindell further said, “I also entrust to his charge my portrait-measuring invention from the life, having 200 steel needles” to be placed in some museum in the United States.  Tripods and other paraphernalia were included in this section of the bequest.  In case Mr. Pindell did not accept, they were to be given to R. F. Menefee, Louisville, Ky.  [Mr. Hart’s ‘Pointing Machine’ currently is a permanent display at the Louisville Science Center.]

To Miss Dian Weaver, Fleming county, Kentucky, he gave his “gold watch, finger ring, two mosaic pins, and portrait of my mother, and locks of my mother’s and father’s hair, Andrew Jackson’s and Henry Clay’s and my own.”

Mr. Hart bequeathed to George H. Saul and A. B. Archbold “the original plaster copy of my ideal group, ‘Woman Triumphant,’ called Number Two, in which the arm of Cupid is down, for them to dispose of in any way they may think best.”

“I desire George H. Saul shall superintend mainly the finishing in marble of my group under way and the production of another group of the same,”  Mr. Saul was directed also to finish “two ideal busts and one statuette commenced in the marble.”  [Only one was completed, which was destroyed in the May, 1897, Fayette County Courthouse.]


Joel Tanner Hart died March 2, 1877, and was buried in the English Cemetery in Florence by the side of his two friends, Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poet, and Hiram Powers, well-known sculptor.  The following newspaper articles are death notices and obituaries of the great sculptor.  There were undoubtedly others throughout Kentucky and the United States, some of which have been lost through time, and others not printed in this document simply for reasons of space.  These examples, although, do show the respect and honor that the people of the world had for Joel Tanner Hart.

            ***Florence, Italy Newspaper (name unknown), March 2*** 

FLORENCE, ITALY  Joel T. Hart, American sculptor, died here today.

            ***COURIER-JOURNAL, Friday, March 2*** 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Mr. Joel Hart, whose death is announced from Italy, was a native of Kentucky, and the people of this state have for years evinced a just pride in his fame.  The statue of Henry Clay, which stands in the rotunda of the court house, in this city, is a sample of his workmanship.  He was a man of true genius, and his career has reflected honor upon the state of Kentucky which he was so worthy a son.

            ***COURIER-JOURNAL, Saturday Morning, March 3***



Death in Florence of the Famous

Sculptor and Honored






A cable telegram from Florence, Italy, yesterday, announced the death of Joel T. Hart, the great American sculptor, who has not only made Kentucky famous by his excellence and renown, but pronounced with unanimity by the art world the greatest of sculptors, living or dead.  Mr. Hart lived to the good age of sixty-seven years, and, unlike many great men whose graves are wreathed in laurels, he lived in the midst of his fame.  The story of his wonderful achievements was not reserved to be presented now as a memorial to his illustrious life.  For more than a quarter of a century he has been known to fame, and during all these years every stroke of the chisel has added interest to the story of his greatness as an artist, while in every civilized nation specimens of his master handiwork have made his name familiar.  Every touch upon the obdurate marble obdurate at the touch of ordinary workmen, but plastic in the hands of the master brought fresh tributes of admiration from the art-loving world.

But Joel Hart was not a man given to self-adulation.  Though he lived to see the triumph of his every effort, he worked along in an unpretentious way, as one in the humble walks of life, until failing health made him lay down his mallet and abandon his studio.  But not, however, until the crowning glory of his achievements, “The Triumph of Chastity,” his last work, the consummation of twenty years labor and study, received its finishing touches.

Joel T. Hart was born in Clark county, Ky., in the year 1810.  He was personally known to many citizens in Louisville, but more familiarly to the people of Lexington and  other portions of the state.  His school-life was but three months long, and the little knowledge which he gained in early life he acquired by poring over books at night by the light of a wood fire upon a rude county hearth-stone.  In the choice of occupations he naturally turned his hand to work in stone, and earned his subsistence by rough stone-work, particularly in building chimneys and fences.  In 1830 he removed to Lexington, Ky., and in a marble-yard made his first essay at engraving letters on a tombstone.  Soon afterwards he began to model busts in clay, making good likenesses of many noted persons, among whom were General Jackson and Cassius M. Clay.  The latter gave him his first commission for his bust in marble.  This was true to life, and was followed by Andrew Jackson, John J. Crittenden and Henry Clay, which gave him popular appreciation at once.  Induced by these achievements, the “Ladies’ Clay Association, of Richmond, Virginia, in 1846 commissioned him to execute a statute of Henry Clay.  Upon the model of this work he spent three years, studying from life.  He went to Florence, Italy, in the fall of 1849, to transfer his work to marble.  For a year he awaited the shipment of his model, only to learn that it had been shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay.  A duplicate model at home was sent for, and then other delays occurred.  Finally the model came, the work progressed slowly, and after thirteen years of patient toil and trouble the great work was finished.  It was shipped on August 29, 1859, and set up in the capital grounds at Richmond.  Next followed a colossal bronze statue of Mr. Clay for New Orleans, and then came from the hands of Mr. Hart the beautiful marble statue of him which adorns the rotunda of the court-house of this city, inaugurated May 30, 1867.  The Clay statue in the Louisville court-house has been the admiration of all who visit it, and those who were familiar with the man are struck with wonder at the exact resemblance to the original in all its parts.

Two gentlemen, both Kentuckians, and enthusiastic friends of Mr. Clay, were one day making a critical examination of the statue, and commenting on the various effects.  When they had finished, one of them had turned to the other and said:

“Well, I’m disappointed, Joel Hart is a fraud.”

“What sir?,” returned his friend, “a fraud say you?  How dare you speak thus of such a man as Joel Hart?  Can you find fault with such a grand piece of handiwork as that?”

“No,” replied the complaining one, “I find no fault with the statue.  It is perfect.  I only find fault with the master.  He said he would make it of marble; but see, he has made it clay.”

Mr. Hart has also executed many portrait busts, among them those of Gen. Zachary Taylor, Col. Gregory, Robert Wickliffe, and duplicates of his previous busts, some of them remarkable for a look of flesh, truthful in expression, and seemingly almost instinct with life.

One of the most beautiful of his works, and one that has become famous, is Venus de Medici, which was an exhibition in the Louisville Exposition during the last two seasons, and now owned by the company.  This specimen of  his delicate handiwork is classed amongst the fairest of his ideal pieces, in which his works are most appreciated and excite the most thrilling admiration of the beautiful.  Here, indeed, the teeming imagery of his brain brings life and beauty from the chisel and cold marble and here, too, the marble ceases to be cold, and glows with warmth and feeling and intelligence.  His “Angelina” and “Il Penseroso” cause bursts of enthusiasm at the sight.

But poetry and sentiment and skill have in his great masterpiece, the “Triumph of Chastity.”  It is described by a Kentuckian, who saw it while on a visit to his studio, as a group of two figures only- a perfect woman and charming Cupid.  Love, in the shape of a bewitching Cupid, has assailed the fair one, has shot arrow after arrow, all of which are broken and have fallen at her feet.  His quiver is exhausted, his last shaft has failed of the mark, and this splendid woman has caught the barbed arrow, and with her left hand has raised it above her head out of reach of the villainous little tempter, who struggles vainly on tiptoe to regain it.  The composition tells its own story.  Virtue is assailed; reason is brought to bear, and all attacks are harmless.  It is, indeed, woman’s triumph--the triumph of chastity.  Believing that his own country women are unsurpassed for loveliness and power, he has endeavored and successfully to produce the highest, purest and most captivating type of the American woman.

The art correspondent at Florence of the London Athenæum said in 1871 that he considered it the finest work of work in existence and that in 1868 he begged Mr. Hart to finish it at once, but he would not; each year it grew more beautiful, and he then feared its completion against the artists better judgment.  Other art correspondents of London journals years ago pronounced it the work of modern times, and other writers all agree as to its perfection.  An art enthusiast once offered $15.000 for it when completed in marble; but the old Kentucky sculptor thought in 1874 he could add to its beauty, although for nineteen years he had toned and tempered and modeled it.  When chided by an admiring friend for spending so many years upon one group, he said:  “The Almighty does not see fit to make a perfect woman in less than eighteen years, and can I hope to make a perfect model in less?” 

When he returned from Italy, in 1860, for a year, the city of Lexington received him with becoming respect and honor, and other places showed him marked consideration.

Nothing is known as to direct cause of his death, or as to the disposition of his remains.

A letter received from Mr. Hart some months ago stated that his great work, The Triumph of Chastity,” was then completed, and if he died it would be ready to be put into marble, through the assistance given him by the State of Kentucky purchasing his busts of Clay and Jackson

            ***LEXINGTON DAILY PRESS, Sunday, March 4, 1877***



To the personal friends in this city of the famous Kentucky sculptor, Joel T. Hart, the news of his death in Florence, Italy, come yesterday creating in them a feeling of gloom and deepest regret, as well as in those who know him only through his artistic fame.  Here is artistic life, began--here was the scene of his early struggles with adversity, where the manly courage with which he met them endeared him to those nearest to him by observance and association.  That the announcement of his death, wholly unexpected, should be a shock to such, can be a matter of no wonderment.

Coming to Lexington at an early period of his life, he engaged in the stone-cutting business in a marble yard, lettering tombstones, &c.  He very soon evinced a talent for a higher art, and commenced moulding busts.  His first effort in this way was a bust of Prof. B. W. Dudley, then the most popular lecturer in the medical profession.  This bust attracted large attention and elicited the first newspaper notice of his work.  His first bust in marble was that of Cassius M. Clay, followed by busts of Gen. Jackson, John J. Crittenden, Henry Clay, Gen. James Taylor, Robert Wickliffe, &c.  Then came the statue of Mr. Clay for the ladies of Virginia; the large bronze statue of Mr. Clay for New Orleans, and the clay statue in Louisville.

His ideal pieces--”Angelina,” “Il Penseroso,” “Morning Glory,” &c, are exquisitely beautiful, and have excited the highest admiration.  But his crowning glory and masterpiece is the “Triumph of Chastity.”  This great work is described by one who has seen it, thus:  “It is a group of two figures only--a perfect woman and charming Cupid.  Love in the shape of a bewitching Cupid has assailed the fair one, has shot arrow after arrow, all of which are broken and have fallen at her feet.  His quiver is exhausted, his last shaft has failed of the mark, and this splendid woman has caught the barbed arrow, and with her left hand has raised it above her head out of reach of the villainous little tempter, who struggles vainly on tiptoe to regain it.  The composition tells its own story.  Virtue is assailed; reason is brought to bear, and all attacks are harmless.”

This, “The Triumph of Chastity” was his life work, having devoted twenty years to its execution.  With regard to the progress of this great work (by some accounted slow), Mr. Hart wrote frequently to one of his earliest, most esteemed friends in this city, Mr. John S. Wilson.

From this letter we subjoin several extracts, some of them of a recent date, all showing how deeply the heart of the famous sculptor was enlisted in his great work.

Under date of “Florence, Italy, April 16, 1871,” Mr. Hart writes--”Many wonder why I have not finished this work long ago, some no doubt from being ignorant of what constitute a work of this kind--of the great difficulty of reaching perfections beyond the ordinary.”  Again under date of October 18, 1876, he writes--”I have so economized that I have secured the finishing in marble of my life work.  I have the best workmen I ever saw at it and rapidest.  I pointed the whole torso to the knees of the woman, myself, when my pointer was at his meals, and on festas when he could not work.  I now work on the finishing.  All this I can hurry.  I could not hurry the modeling.  I have had more than one hundred and fifty originals to study from.  This perseverance accounts for the milk in the cocoanut.  Should I die in the meantime Mr. Geo. H. Taul (sic), an English sculptor residing here, and my art executor, will be responsible and have this work paid for as it goes on, and sent to the United States to be disposed of to settle my affairs there.”

These extracts from Mr. Hart’s letters are a sufficient vindication of himself as to any charge of unnecessary delay in completing the magnificent work of art upon which he was willing to rest his claims to fame.  They also give an assurance that the work, though he now be dead, if not yet completed, there is nothing to prevent it, in the charge of Mr. Taul (sic).  The presumption, however, is that the “Triumph of Chastity,” the most beautiful work in the sculptor’s art, was completed before the death of Mr. Hart.

The telegram announcing the death of Mr. Hart furnished no particulars.  That he is dead is sad news, to his numerous friends and admirers here, as will as to those abroad who knew him only as the ____?____ . 

Joel Tanner Hart’s grave marker is still in existence in the beautiful English Cemetery in Florence, Italy. Not long after Mr. Hart’s death in 1877, this cemetery was closed.  The city was growing around it, and another cemetery was started further out.  Today, if you were to walk through its front gate and through its narrow walkways, it would speak of the history of the nineteenth century in Florence.  It quietly tells any visitor of the early artists that come to that great city, many of them we read of and marvel at their artwork that still exist in museums, libraries, and art galleries all over the world.  Much of the sculpture work that Joel T. Hart did was in this great city, and fortunately, much of his work still exists today for us to enjoy.  It is unknown who sculpted Mr. Hart’s monument in this wonderful cemetery.  It reads as follows:


DIED MARCH 2nd, 1877




Almost immediately after Joel T. Hart’s death, the Lexington community gathered together for the purpose of  honoring the great artist.  The Hart Memorial Committee was put together, and according to a newspaper article, “efforts to secure the necessary funds to carry out the work of the committee be instituted at once.” 

            ***Lexington Daily Press, March 6, 1877***

Joel T. Hart Meeting To-night


We gave notice in our Sunday’s issue that a public meeting would be held at the Lexington Library to night at 7 o’clock, in honor of the memory of Joel T. Hart, the great Kentucky sculptor, whose death at Florence we then announced.  We have every assurance that the meeting will be sufficiently attended to make it creditable to the occasion as it should be.  The ladies are particularly invited, and it is hoped will turn out in large numbers.  Gen. John R. Huston and James O. Harrison, Esq., and probably others, are expected to address the meeting.

That a proper tribute should be paid to the memory of Mr. Hart by the citizens of Lexington may be reasonably expected, if not demanded, by common usage and observance.  Here it was that he began his artist life.  Dying, after achieving a world-wide fame, on classic ground, far from his “old Kentucky home,” it is but meet that we should acknowledge in an acceptable form the Kentucky pride we feel in his broad fame.  Let the meeting to-night attest, in its fullness, our appreciation of his worth.

            ***Lexington Daily Press, May 13, 1877:***

Meeting of the Hart Memorial Committee


The Hart Memorial Committee met in the Director’s Room of the Lexington City Library, on Friday afternoon, at 5 o’clock.

There were present, Mr. John S. Wilson, in the Chair, Messrs. J. Desha Pickett, D. Mulligan, W. C. P. Breckinridge and G. W. Ranck.

An invitation was extended to Prof. J. H. Neville, of Kentucky University to be present, which was accepted.  Mr. Wilson reported, in accordance with resolutions adopted at the last meeting, that the wishes of the near relations of Mr. Hart be consulted as to the removal of his remains to this country, their concurrence.  Their consent was expressed in letters which were read by the Secretary, Dr. Todd.  After a general and satisfactory discussion of the object, and action of Committee, in which Prof. Neville took part, the following resolution offered by Col. Breckinridge was unanimously adopted: 

RESOLVED:  That a committee of three be appointed composed of Prof. J. Desha Pickett, Messrs. D. Mulligan and G. W. Ranck, to prepare and propose, expressive of the sense of this Committee, a suitable plan whereby to publicly manifest our high esteem for, and do honor to, the memory of the late illustrious sculptor Joel T. Hart, consisting of the removal of his remains from Florence, Italy, for burial in the Lexington Cemetery -- to procure a marble bust of Mr. Hart, recently executed by the distinguished sculptor, Mr. Saul, a life-long friend and art executor of Mr. Hart, to be placed permanently in the Lexington City Library, and for the erection over his grave of a handsome monument, at the dedication of which the artists of America shall be invited to be present.

On motion of Prof. Pickett, Col. W. C. P. Breckinridge was made chairman of this committee.  The report of which will be made on Friday, May 25th, at 5 o’clock, p. m.  The meeting then adjourned.


L. B. TODD, Sec’y.


This resolution, for various reasons unknown to the author, was not executed as it had originally been planned out to be.  Joel T. Hart’s remains were brought back from Florence, Italy, but were re-interred at the Frankfort cemetery instead.  The Lexington Transcript had an article entitled, “Remains of Joel T. Hart enroute from Italy to Frankfort pass through Lexington,” dated January 2, 1885.  Certainly, this had to be a sad day for the residents of Lexington and for the members of this Committee.  Also, the above mentioned marble bust executed by Mr. Saul now is in ownership of the J. B. Speed Museum in Louisville, Ky.  The Speed Museum lists it as a gift of the Louisville Free Public Library.  It is not known how the Public Library acquired it.


Mr. Hart’s remains rested for several years on the sunny banks of the Arno in Italy, but in 1884 the Kentucky General Assembly introduced into the Legislature and had passed an act for the removal of Mr. Hart’s remains to the State lot in the Frankfort cemetery, to rest until the resurrection morn in the soil of his own native and much loved Kentucky.  This act is as follows:





Whereas, Joel T. Hart a native of Clark County, Kentucky, by dint of his own indomitable will and commanding talents, raised himself from obscurity to national and world-wide prominence, and achieved for himself a position second to none other that America or the world ever produced in the grand art of sculpture, and thereby added imperishable renown to his native State and whereas, he died and was buried in a foreign land, and although his name will ever live and grow brighter with the coming years in the annuals of his chosen art, yet his grave is unmarked and unhonored on a foreign shore; and whereas, it is the duty of the State, and Kentucky is ever ready, willing, and anxious to recognize the efforts of her sons in all the walks of life to reflect glory and renown no less upon them than upon the State of their nativity; therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

1.  That the Governor be, and he is hereby, fully vested with authority and power to appoint some suitable person or persons, whose duty it shall be to proceed to Florence, Italy, or where the remains of said Joel T. Hart, deceased, are buried, and procure said remains, and have the same properly encased and prepared, and brought to Frankfort, Kentucky, where they shall be interred in the lot set apart by the State for the burial of her illustrious dead.  Said person or persons so appointed shall have full and ample power to receive all orders or commissions from the Federal Government, or its official agents, necessary in the promises to procure the remains of said Hart from the authorities of Italy, or any city, town, county, village, or municipality thereof.  Said person or persons so appointed are hereby given full power and authority to do all acts necessary to be done in procuring the remains of said Hart and bringing the same to Frankfort, Kentucky.  Said person or persons so appointed shall be allowed all necessary expenses in disinterring, encasing, removing, and re-interring the remains of said Joel T. Hart.  Said person or persons so appointed shall certify on oath all the costs incurred in carrying out the objects of this resolution to the Auditor of Public Accounts, who shall draw his warrant upon the Treasurer in favor of said person or persons so appointed by the Governor, for the full amount so certified by him, and the Treasurer shall pay the warrant out of any money not otherwise before appropriated; provided, the same shall not exceed the sum of twelve hundred dollars.

2.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Approved April 22, 1884


Judge Charles E. Kincaid, Private Secretary of Governor Knott, was appointed to go to Florence, Italy, to complete the request of the General Assembly of Kentucky, according to the following excerpt from the Executive Journal of Governor J. Proctor Knott.  [Sometime after the destruction of Woman Triumphant (May, 1897,) Judge Kincaid was on the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer.] 

August 28, 1884

      Under the provisions of an Act of the General Assembly, approved April 22, 1884, the Governor this day appointed and commissioned Charles E. Kincaid, agent on the part of the State to proceed to Florence, Italy, for the purpose of securing the remains of Joel T. Hart, bringing them to this State, and having them interred in the cemetery at Frankfort.

On November 3rd, 1884, Mr. Kincaid (or someone with him) wrote the following letter to the Courier-Journal from Florence, Italy:

The remains of the distinguished sculptor and poet, Joel T. Hart, were removed from the English Cemetery in this city a day or two since, to Leghorn, to await the arrival of the steamship which is to convey them to New York.  They will be carried to the State cemetery at Frankfort, Ky., for final interment.  The Commissioner appointed by the Governor to fulfill this mission arrived in Europe about the middle of September, but he was met at London by a letter from the United States Consul at Florence, stating that on account of the cholera the Italian Government had decreed that no bodies should be exhumed before November, if then.  The people were then in a state of consternation and scattering in every direction.  The disease having abated in a great degree, a special permit was secured through the exertions of the Consul the last of October, and the Commissioner being on the ground, the body was disinterred under the strict surveillance of the municipal authorities.  Mr. Hart had been dead seven or eight years, but his coffin was in a good state of preservation.  He had been carefully put to rest by warm personal friends of different nationalities in the city, who loved him for his intrinsic worth as an artist and as a nobleman.  They had placed above the spot where he slept a neat and substantial marble monument, which stood about three feet high in the shape of a sarcophagus.

He was buried in the English Cemetery where all Protestants of all countries who die here were laid to rest.  He was among the last to be buried there, as the ground gave out soon after, and a new cemetery was opened beyond the city limits.  After the coffin had been appropriately encased and hermetically sealed, a floral wreath was placed upon it, woven of those beautiful and fragrant flowers of Florence the poet-sculptor loved so well.  Soon he will repose forever beneath his native Bluegrass, along the banks of the Kentucky, with O’Hara and Boone.

Mr. Ross C. Adams, a young gentleman of Lexington, Ky., who is stationed at Carrara, in connection with the marble business and studying sculpture in the meanwhile, came up to see me.  I brought him the Hart Memorial pamphlet, from Mrs. Breckinridge, which he was delighted to receive, devoted as he is to the virtues of our good old sculptor.

It is estimated that 100,000 persons left Paris during the cholera epidemic.  The people are now returning in great numbers.

            ***Lexington Daily Press, Dec. 30, 1884***




NEW YORK, Dec. 29. -- The steamer India, having the body of Joel T. Hart, Kentucky’s sculptor, on board, reached her dock to-day.  The remains will be taken out this afternoon and forwarded to Kentucky for interment in the State Cemetery at Frankfort.

            ***The Lexington Morning Transcript, Jan. 2, 1885*** 

After years of rest in a foreign climate where he died poor but famous, all that was mortal of Joel T. Hart is brought home for final interment.  Years ago he left Lexington and went to Italy to pursue under more favorable auspices the calling he had adopted.  Through privations, troubles and disappointments, through poverty brightened by the illusive dream of future material prosperity, he steadily carved his way to fame as a sculptor.  Like many great men who had preceded him, fame and reputation came after death, after the world had time to see and recognize his worth.

The C. & O. train bearing the remains, which were in charge of Judge Chars. Kinkead (sic), arrived here yesterday afternoon at 3:20, en-route for Frankfort.

When the train stopped at the depot the fire bell commenced tolling in respect to the memory of the great sculptor, and continued its measured notes until the train departed for Frankfort.  There he will be laid in final rest, by order of the Legislature of his native State.  It is fitting that he who carved the beauteous lines -- “Woman Triumphant” -- should rest side by side with him who wrote “The Bivouac of the Dead,” one a poem in marble, the other in thought.  Kentucky loves her noble children.  From far up the waters of the Missouri she tenderly brought back the bones of Boone and laid them beside the beautiful Kentucky; from far off Italy she reclaims the dust of Hart and reverently entombs it.  It is right and proper she should do it. 


Upon the insistence of both the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives, the following resolution was voted on and passed:



     WHEREAS, By the action of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, at the session of 1883-4, the remains of Joel T. Hart, the great American sculptor, were taken from the beautiful tomb on the banks of the Arno, brought to Frankfort and placed in the public vault, where they now lie unhallowed by the rites of Christian burial; therefore, be it

Resolved by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

     1.  That the Governor of this Commonwealth be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to have said remains decently interred in the cemetery at Frankfort, with Kentucky’s distinguished dead, at such a time as it may please him to appoint, and with such ceremonies as shall be in keeping with the honor due the memory of the dead artist.

     2.  The Auditor is hereby directed to draw his warrant on the Treasurer in favor of J. Proctor Knott for the amount expended under this resolution.

Approved May 15, 1886


For various unknown reasons, Joel T. Hart’s remains rested in the public vault at Frankfort for two and one-half years.  Finally, Gov. Knott issued and sent throughout the State invitations “to the people of Kentucky to be present at the memorial services in honor of Joel T. Hart, in the State Cemetery at Frankfort, Ky., at 11 o’clock A. M., Saturday, June 18, 1887.”  On the morning of the 18th, “The Governor this day issued the following:  As a token of respect to the memory of Joel T. Hart, in whose honor Memorial Exercises will be held in the State Cemetery this morning, it is requested that the various offices of the Executive Department be closed for this day.”

Amid a large concourse of citizens, friends and relatives and with appropriate exercises, the renowned sculptor, poet, and former chimney-builder of Clark County was re-interred June 18, 1887, in the Frankfort Cemetery.  The ceremony has been recorded as follows:


Front Page



APPROVED MAY 15, 1886.








[ Page 2

(intentionally left blank)








In pursuance of a joint resolution of the General Assembly, approved May 15, 1886, directing the Governor to have the remains of Joel T. Hart decently interred in the cemetery at Frankfort with Kentucky’s distinguished dead, at such time as he might appoint, and with such ceremonies as should be in keeping with the honor due the memory of the dead artist, the Governor, after several unavoidable delays, for which he was in nowise responsible, appointed the 18th of June as the day upon which that melancholy duty should be performed.

He requested Mr. Robert Burns Wilson, the distinguished Poet and Artist of Frankfort, and Hon. Wm. M. Beckner, as eminent and representative citizen of Mr. Hart’s native county, to deliver memorial addresses, and Mrs. Rosa Vertner [4] Jeffery, the gifted Poetess of Lexington, to prepare and read an appropriate poem on the occasion.

Cards were sent to the relatives and intimate friends of the dead artist, as far as they were known to, or could be ascertained by, the Governor, and a general invitation issued to the people of Kentucky to be present.  F. W. Houston, of Bourbon; John S. Wilson, of Fayette; Gen. C. M. Clay, of Madison; Hon. Jas. Flanagan, of Clark; Lieut-Gov. James R. Hindman, of Adair; Hon. James A. McKenzie, of Christian; Col. W. N. Haldeman, Daniel E. O’Sullivan, Nicola Marshall, Carl Brenner, and Jouett Menifee, of Jefferson; Col. H. M. McCarty, of McCracken; Dr. John D. Woods, of Warren; Prof. J. O. Hodges, of Fayette; Chief Justice Pryor, Judge Lewis, Judge Holt, and Judge Bennett, of the Court of Appeals; Judge Bowden, Judge Ward, and Judge Barbour, of the Superior Court; Hon. Alvin Duvall, Hon. Wm. Lindsay, Gen. Scott Brown, Gen. D. W. Lindsey, Judge P. U. Major, John L. Scott, Lawrence Tobin, Patrick McDonald, Col. L. E. Harvie, Thos. Rodman, Sr., Hiram Berry, Hon. W. P. D. Bush, Capt. H. I. Todd, Hon. T. G. Stuart, and Hon. James F. Winn, were appointed Honorary Pall-bearers, and the following programme arranged:[5] 


Removal of Remains from Receiving Vault to Place of Interment
Escorted by the Military,
Prayer by the Rev. G. F. Bagby,
Music by Frankfort Choir, led by Prof. Wayland Graham,
Address by Robert Burns Wilson,
Poem by Mrs. Rosa Vertner Jeffrey,
Address upon the Life and Character of Joel T. Hart, by Hon.
W. N. Beckner,
Benediction by Prof. Jos. Desha Pickett. 

The proceedings of the day were accurately reported by an accomplished correspondent of the Courier-Journal as follows:


Frankfort, June 18, 1887


The weather was most propitious for the ceremony of the interment of the remains of Kentucky’s great sculptor, Joel T. Hart.

The people in great concourse gathered at the Capital Hotel, where the relatives of Hart, Gov. Knott, Gen. Buckner, Senator Beck, the Judges of the Court of Appeals, and many other dignitaries and notables were assembled, and, in carriages provided for that purpose, proceeded to the [6] cemetery, and arranged themselves in front of the stand erected for the speakers.  There were nearly 600 chairs loaned by the Mason-Foard Company and upward of 100 loaned by Dr. Stewart, of the Feeble-minded Institute, and all these were occupied by the ladies, with a multitude of gentlemen standing.

On the stand were, besides the speakers and the choir, Gov. Knott, Gen. Buckner, Lieut. Gov. Hindman, Senator Beck, Gen. Cassius M. Clay, Gen. Thomas A. Harris, the relatives of Hart, Mrs. Alexander Campbell, Mrs. Cornelia Bush, and Mrs. Virginia Thompson, and others.

At 11:30 o’clock the Maysville band of fourteen pieces rendered a dirge at the vault, when the remains were withdrawn and placed under the escort of the following pall-bearers for the occasion:  Chief Justice Pryor, Justices Lewis, Bennett, and Holt, Lieut. Gov. Hindman, Dr. John D. Woods, Col. John Scott, Gen. Cassius M. Clay, John O. Hodges and Harry L. Todd.  The police force and members of the City Council headed this procession, which halted at the open grave beneath a wide spreading maple.

Gov. Knott then arose and announced that the services would begin with prayer by Rev. G. F. Bagby, of the Baptist Church of this city.

Mr. Bagby’s prayer was as follows:


Oh, Thou Eternal One, Thou God of ages, God of nations, God of mankind, one great and all-powerful God!  We need Thee every hour, in every thing, for every thing, from every thing.  We desire to look up to Thee.  Thou art the author of our being, the giver of every good and perfect gift.  We thank Thee for this perfect day, for [7] these auspicious greetings.  We beg Thee, O God, that this occasion may be blessed.  We thank Thee for our intellects, for ‘Beauty the genius of the body, genius the beauty of the mind.’  We ask Thee to help us to acknowledge Thy blessings in that we are permitted to live in this adult age of the world.  We thank Thee for poetry, literature, music, science and religion.  We thank Thee for our souls, which never die.  We bless and adore Thy holy name that we have been born in America, in this land of liberty, religion, and culture.  May we live for the cultivation of the higher arts.  We thank Thee for Kentucky.  We bless Thee for all the great good of the past, and that we are enabled to stand here in our relation to that past and claim it as our heritage.  Illumine our minds and hearts so that we may justly rise to an appreciation of thy glorious wonders.  O, God, may these our speakers be inspired to-day to speak words of truth, beauty and power, so that our hearts may be lifted to a sense of the highest attributes of the illustrious dead, whose remains we have come to solemnly sink to rest into the bosom of his native State.  May we realize that life is the only probationary season, and that it is appointed unto us once to die.  We beg thy blessings upon these officials, make them Godly men, who in the great hereafter will bear the plaudits, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servants.’  All this we ask through the riches of grace in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.


The choir, led by Prof. Graham, then sang, “My Country, ‘tis of Thee.”


Whereupon Mr. Robert Burns Wilson delivered the following


The beautiful scene that spreads about us here is the one that is made sacred by the tenderest and saddest associations known to this fleeting existence.  Perhaps there is scarcely a man or woman among you to whom this place will not recall remembrances of once loved, once loving hearts, which, somewhere, are now silently mingling with their kindred earth. [8]

This is the final sheltering haven, the last peaceful abiding place for many of Kentucky’s children Pioneers, statesmen and soldiers--from every walk they have been gathered, and here they rest, in quietness, upon the fragrant bosom of their native land.

One could not wish a fairer resting place--the landscape, which stretches away upon every side, from this upland City of the Dead, is of such surpassing loveliness that one might well think, if the slumberers should chance to awake upon some summer day, they would exclaim:  “Surely we are already come to Elysium.”  So fair is it all that one can not suppress a pang of regret, thinking of all the closed eyes that shall behold it no more forever; and yet there is something almost enchanting in the thought of this dreamless and undisturbed repose.

The winds of the summer, they blow, they blow,
And the sibilant pines, they sing;
And the men and the women, they sleep below,
And death is their silent king.

Soft on the green of the grass-grown aisle
The angels in silence tread;
And often they lovingly linger awhile
By the graves of the blessed dead.

They bend by the lowly and shadowed mound,
Where no one come to weep;
Where, friendless within their neglected ground,
The unremembered sleep.

They pause by the shaft of glistening stone
Which towers against the sky,
When it tells of some noble dead which shone
In the light of a day gone by. [9]

The sweet rain falls on the nodding grass,
And smites on the bended flower,
But the sleepers care not for the clouds that pass,
Nor the charm of beauty’s power.

They know no thrill when the storm-god’s frown
Grows black in the sultry skies;
They feel no pang when the sun goes down;
They feel no joy at his rise.

The mellowing disc of the harvest moon
Will rise through the far-off trees,
And the breath of the grain-fields reaped at noon
Will burden the wearied breeze;

But the brooding hush of the day’s repose
Will make no trembling sigh;
There burns no hope in the breasts of those--
The fount of their tears is dry. 

It may be that nothing which is done by the living can bring either happiness or unhappiness to the dead.

Perhaps no heaping of flowers upon the well-kept mound nor rearing of sculptured monuments, inscribed with words of praise, can bring any ray of cheer or comfort to the hearts which crumble beneath them, or make one whit less cold and dark the lonely beds in which they lie.

Yet we love to think otherwise.  It is a gracious instinct of nature which leads us to bestow care and labor upon the last resting-places of those we have loved in life.  And it is a redeeming quality of the soul which makes us quick to forget and forgive the faults of the dead, and to find pleasure in remembering only what is good.  All blame falls from them as they pass the awful portal, and they are transfigured to our eyes as [10]  they recede into that unknown realm whither we shall shortly follow them.

I know not which is better, life or death.
The rose whose leaves fall shimmering to the ground
Is lovely still as when, with perfumed breath,
It lured with thorns to wound.

The man whose name to-day adds lustre to this respectful ceremony, was one whose life-work has entitled him to a place in the generous memory of every citizen of Kentucky.  A man who, by sheer force of his genius, has won for himself the undisputed right to an enviable and enduring fame.  It is true, it was not his fortune to lead a forlorn hope to victory upon some bloody, but glorious field of battle; nor to move the hearts of listening thousands by the flashing eye and impassioned speech of the orator; neither was it his to win in his own day the loud plaudits of loving countrymen by the triumph of superior wisdom and ability in some great stroke of statesmanship.  Not any of these was for him.  His was the long and silent, but no less fierce and heroic struggle, of one who followed fondly and faithfully that enchanting and intangible divinity which we call Art.  Just what that long battle must have been, in all its bitter reality, we can never truly know, and can but partly guess, and I doubt if any marshaling of phrases could present other than a feeble picturing of it.

It is but another instance of the eternal truth, that where the divine flame is once lighted within the breast, that soul must follow its star, whether it be to victory  or defeat, an instance of the sub-
[11] lime faith which makes all things possible to him that is possessed of it.  But how unreasonable it seems.  Scarcely can the wide fields of nature furnish a simile that might justly set forth the crushing disparity of this fleeting life, this breathing immortality, as opposed to the mighty and immortal ills which rear themselves like night-shadowed mountains in the path of one who sets out alone and unaided to win for himself a name and place in the proud world of art.

It is not a fight against tangible enemies, but against remorseless shadows; shadows that make mock at human effort; shadows that continually point out to the desperate soul how soon the sun will go down, how near is the inscrutable grave, and how far off is the goal for which the dauntless spirit strives and seems to strive in vain.  And yet, despite all this, we find that here was one who did dare to set out upon that lonely journey single-handed, untaught and unaided.

With what more than Spartan heroism must each step of that way have been slowly and determinedly accomplished.  Does not the imagination picture him, noting, perhaps, with despairing eyes how low was his advance forward the realization of that dream upon which he had set his like?  We know now that he did go on; but amidst what black discouragements, what sinkings of the heart, what agonies of soul.  Alas!  they can not now be computed; and when at the last his fondly cherished ideal--this dream of beauty, which has the remembered image of a fair daughter of Kentucky loved in his youth--when this, I say, his like’s inspiration, stood forth at last an achieved reality, a [12] soul’s remembrance in marble--then, indeed, but not till then, the chisel fell from his weary fingers and the hand which had toiled through twenty years of exile and poverty and sorrow became as cold as the pallid stone upon which it had wrought so lovingly and so well.

A life like this needs not so much a historian as an interpreter.  It is not so much by an accurate setting forth of what has actually been performed that one can measure the greatness of a soul.  All is not known when we know what was done yesterday or the day before, or what was intended to be done to-morrow.  These are not the things by which we may truly gauge the soul and sum of a man’s life.  Not so!  We should be able to enter within the veil, and if we would really know, we must try to live over in thought each phase of the long and hidden conflict which was uncomplainingly sustained against such odds.  We must remember the longing and the waiting, the forced restraint put upon the fever-fretted heart, the fears that were overcome, the disappointments that were bravely borne, the aspiring mind’s continuous effort amidst misfortunes that threatened to render all effort utterly hopeless, the hindered soul’s heroic determination to reach its noble and ennobling aim.  These are the things by which a man’s life should be tested; these are the things that are not printed in the books.

The life which is the life indeed
Dwells in the heart alone;
It is not blazoned in the creed,
Nor on memorial stone.[13]

Seeing then, this man’s unselfish devotion to art--for art’s sake--how even amidst the darkest clouds he struggles to read the light, reviewing in thought his blameless and sorrow-haunted life, and recalling to mind the work he has achieved, what shall we conclude?  I tell you that although Kentucky is mother to many sons whose memory she is delighted to hold in honor and affection--soldiers, orators, scholars, and statesmen, over whose dust she has builded monuments whose deeds are written upon the pages of her history, and whose names are familiar in song and story, among all these, as worthy as they are, there is no name more worthy to be remembered that is the name of the sculptor, Joel T. Hart, whose life and works furnish to her people, at once, an example and an inspiration.

The sculptor is dead; but his work remains, and the best of it, thanks to the women of Kentucky, remains with us to-day.

Glad I am to be able to say this.  Thanks to these women of our State, who, by their own efforts, raised the needed sum, purchased this masterpiece of the master, and placed it where it should be a constant reminder to the youth of this Commonwealth that henceforth there will be in the mind of this people the rightful expectation of an advance for Kentucky in the future history of American art.

It is a reminder, also, that women are always, everywhere, and in all ages, the natural friends and helpers of genius.  They are always first to perceive whatever is best in men.  They inspire by their beauty.  They are ever ready to aid by their [14] appreciation and sympathy.  Unselfish always in their worship of the ideal, they are the first to encourage and the last to forsake those who might else struggle toward the light in vain.

Is it too much to hope that here also great things shall yet be accomplished?  Why should not our souls as well as our lands be blessed?  If the way be steep, who would have it other?  If the laurel were easy to win, who would care to wear it?

I tell you that the days of inspiration are not passed away; and I am constrained to believe that the soft breeze which long ages ago swept across the Mediterranean blue or circled about the fabled summit of Olympus, breathed not one whit more of inspiration than do the fragrant winds which bend the tree-tops upon our own green hills; and, fair as must have been the women whose beauty inspired of old the art of Phidias and Praxiteles, there are thousands just as fair, living and breathing among you to-day, native to the soil upon which you stand.  Shall not, then, this man, who gave his life to the cause of American art, have here a monument of remembrance?  Not a costly shaft socketed in granite, but a more precious monument, builded up of love and devotion, whose foundation shall be laid in the hearts of his countrymen, an ever-growing monument, glorious as this fair land of his birth, pure and enduring as the stars.

The band rendered “Hail Columbia, Happy Land,” when Attorney General Hardin rose and said he had been deputed to read Mrs. Rosa Vertner Jeffrey’s poem because of the illness of the author at her home in Lexington. [15] 

It was as follows:


For a bold and brilliant story,
Summer’s symphonies atune,
Send a paean flushed with glory
Down the echoing aisles of June,
While I sing of one--unaided,
Save by industry and will--
By no menial task degraded,
Who toiled bravely onward still,
With the light of genius burning
like a lamp within his soul,
Never flinching, never turning
From a far-off hoped for goal.
Ancient art--high, pure and mighty--
Filled his brain ere manhood’s noon,
Eros, Psyche, Aphrodite,
Or the monstrous Laocoon;
And when rough, gray blocks were fitted,
Lo!  the homely structure shone,
While rare forms about them flitted,
Fine and fair as Parian stone.
For he thought of Greece, art-haunted,
Crowned with Learning’s classic beams,
And of all the world enchanted
Over Milo’s marble dreams,
‘Till he felt a wild, fierce yearning
With those gifted ones to stand,
And, all coarser models spurning,
Shaped a woman’s fragile hand.
Then a statesman’s head he fashioned,
So life-like that it seems
Clay’s grand intellect, impassioned,
Through the dumb, cold marble streams.
Thus men found his genius shining
Like a pearl among the swine,
And knew its worth enshrining
In Fame’s casket chaste and fine.
This pure gem--too often clouded,

Page 16

Left unseen, unknown too long--
Sculptor’s hopes in failure shrouded,
Poet hearts that break in song!
A spark!  a lambent flame from Heaven,
A strange, mysterious glow!
And by death alone ‘tis riven,
Or its glory dimmed below,
Not quenched, for ‘tis immortal,
This rich jewel of the mind,
And, beyond yon shining portal,
Changed, purified, refined,
The sculptor’s mortal dreaming
Full perfection shall attain;
Mystic marbles round him gleaming
Without flaw, or earthly stain,
Would the one who erst ignited
In man’s soul the electric spark,
For a brief span leave it lighted,
And then dark, forever dark?
Are immortal longings given
Unto men of mortal birth,
That their souls may pine in Heaven
For the work they loved on earth?
No--the God who gave ambition
Unto mortals with his love,
Will not rob them of fruition.
Following progress up above
Hart hath left us his ideal;
His no longer, for unbound
‘Mid the infinite and the real,
What he sought for here is found.
Stored with Mem ry’s booty,
He held one fine fixed idea,
To create a thing of beauty,
Like Pygmalion’s Galatea.
Modeled from no foreign nation,
This white wonder pure and grand,
Stands a glorious inspiration
From the women of his land,
Let the requiems that quiver

Page 17

Through our morning hearts today
Reach the Arno’s classic river,
Winding down it’s classic way,
Where Campanian breezes render
Fragrant tribute to the shore,
On--where Rome’s eternal splendor
Sits enthroned forevermore,
Where the toga of her glory,
Wrapped about the seven hills,
All the gloom that clouds her story
With a purple halo fills.
Of his triumph news came stealing
Out of Florence from afar,
In our heaven of art revealing
A vast, wondrous new-found star.
There are orbs whose scintillations
Are such distant dots of light,
Keeping watch at far-off stations
On the border lands of night,
That--were one of them sent dashing
From its dizzy azure throne,
For long, endless ages flashing,
‘Twould shine on as erst it shone,
And from art’s high heaven thus banished,
Set to rise on earth no more,
Where our lost pleaid vanished
Will its mystic radiance pour.
*               *               *               *               *
Strangers sang our sculptor’s praises,
In rare flowers his tomb was dressed,
But ‘neath blue-grass sod and daisies,
We have brought him home to rest.

June 14, 1887                                                  Rosa Vertner Jeffrey


By request, then Gen. P. W. Hardin read the following poem by the same author, on Hart’s masterpiece, “Woman Triumphant,” in the courthouse at Lexington:





An artist’s hand hath carved a mystic story,
Whose inspiration through the marble shines;
Its dumb, cold whiteness is transfused with glory,
Illuminating all the beauty lines.
A story!  in the fair form of a woman--
Let woman’s heart its subtle truth evolve;
This marble problem--yet with all so human,
By genius left, for purity to solve.

A rare creation!  as to form and fashion,
A woman, by whose lofty pose is shown
The soul’s high triumph over earthly passion.
A fable!  marvelously cut in stone,
With life’s warm flushes through its pallor breaking
To tint the cheek, and pulse the sculptured breast,
‘Twould scarcely be more eloquent--thus waking--
Than in its perfect and eternal rest.

A thing of faultless beauty, through long ages
It must stand, forever shine,
It’s meaning graved on Purity’s white pages,
Worshiped forever in her cloistered shrine.
All honor to the genius thus achieving
Such glorious triumph, with a master’s hand,
This chaste ideal of his soul receiving
Hart’s impress from the women of his land.

He gave them homage, without stint or measure,
Upon the alter of his native home,
Be it their mission to enshrine this treasure,
Fine as the sculpted gems of ancient Rome.
Within the milk-white quarries of Carrara
No purer, fairer marble ever shone;
No purer women live, and none are fairer
Than those he has immortalized in stone.


Lexington, April 15, 1884


The choir then sang “It is Well With My Soul,” [19] at the conclusion of which Judge W. M. Beckner, of Winchester, delivered the following





This ceremony, unpretending and simple as it is, testifies to a civilization of which every Kentuckian should feel proud.  Even the savage pays honor to the warrior dead.  In the most barbarous lands, or in ages when culture was least esteemed, wisdom in the public councils, eloquence in speech, or piety in religious offices, have been recognized at the grave.  But we are here to-day to reinter, under the auspices of the Commonwealth, the remains of one who was neither soldier, statesman, orator, nor saint, but a quiet, retiring man, who took little part in the affairs of life, who cared nothing for the ordinary objects of human ambition, and who had found the chief joys of his existence in that ideal world which is a terra incognita  He was personally a stranger to the generation whom representatives have seen fit to send across the ocean for his bones, and to order that they shall have final sepulture in this spot dedicated to those who have deserved well of the Commonwealth.  It is the worldly way to treat these relics of mortality as representatives of the spirit by which they were once inhabited. to the mass of humanity.

When the Stuart King came to the throne of his fathers he had the lifeless body of Cromwell hung at Tyburn, and his head struck off, to show his hatred of the greatest ruler that England has ever [20] produced.  One of the earliest acts of the Bourbon, when restored to power in France, was to take the bones of Rousseau and Voltaire from their resting places in the Pantheon, and dump them into an unmarked pit in an open field, so that they might never again be found.  These rude acts could in nowise, however, disturb the mighty spirits they were intended to dishonor.  Neither can what we do to-day bring aught of benefit to him who is no longer an object of sense.  To the dull, cold ear of death the strains of music and the words of eulogy are no more than the sighing of the wind in these trees or the splashing of the water in yon river, but they are mighty to indicate the character of the living at whose instance this tribute is paid.

Joel Tanner Hart, whose career brings us together on this occasion, was born in the county of Clark on the 10th day of February, 1810.  His father was a pioneer and helped to build one of the stockade forts, which made it possible for the earliest settlers to hold the dark and bloody ground against its savage claimants.

He was an excellent surveyor, and seems to have been a man of intelligence, piety, and considerable force of character.  He assisted to locate the iron works on Slate creek, in Bath county, and was the first to build a flat-boat for transportation of produce from this region to New Orleans.  There is still preserved in the family a long letter written by him to his father in 1790.  In it he describes the region in which he had located, and shows that he appreciated its beauty and advantages, but adds:  “The chief fault I find with the county is, that it will admit of too thick a settlement; at this time parts [21] of it are settled as thick as any of the regions on the eastern waters.”  His father owned a military grant for services in the Revolutionary war, and out of this gave Josiah eight hundred acres, which included nearly all of the present site of Winchester lying north of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  The rascality of an agent, whom he had trusted to collect the proceeds of a heavy shipment to New Orleans, brought financial ruin, and he was compelled to change his mode of living, and to bring up his children in a humble way.

The mother of Joel T. Hart was Judith Tanner.  She was descended from the best blood of Virginia, and herself a woman of mark.  A single incident will illustrate the strength of her character.  In the distribution of her mother’s estate, there came to her several slaves, but she would not hold them.  With a clearer vision than so many of the good people of that generation enjoyed, she saw that slavery was an injury to both races, and set her negroes free.  Gentle in disposition, pious in sentiment, refined in feeling, and intelligent beyond her opportunities or surroundings, she did much to shape the character of her artist son.


                                                   “Happy he!
With such a mother!  faith in womankind
Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
Comes easy to him, and tho’ he trip and fall
He shall not blind his soul with clay.”


The mother of Judith Hart was a noted woman in her day.  From the dignity of her manner and character, the strength of her intellect, and the social position of the family from which she [22] came in Virginia, she was known far and wide as “Lady” Tanner.

The region in which Joel T. Hart was born and reared was strikingly fitted to develop the qualities of one endowed with the poetic or artistic instinct.  It is of the Blue-grass, but near its confines.  The landscape upon which he looked from his father’s door is as lovely as that of any in Central Kentucky.  A valley between gently rolling hills, a little brook, on either side of which grew the indigenous cane so graceful in shape and beautiful in foliage, the grand forests then in full view in every direction, and far away the faint outlines of the mountain spurs, from one of which Boone first looked down upon the goodly land which he had come so far to see.  It is little wonder that nurtured in such a spot by such a mother, young Hart should have been stirred to higher dreams than usually come to those less blest in their surroundings and home influences.  As I stood the other day near where he was born, and, looking over the exquisite scenery about me, saw in the distance the towering blue hills that bread the monotony of the horizon, I thought of the theory of Ruskin, that sculptors and painters are more apt to come from countries rich enough to produce the luxury on which art must depend for its encouragement and support, and yet in which may be found the mountainous scenery that has proven so great a stimulus to imagination and enthusiasm.  In his Modern Painters, after giving due credit to “lowland flowers and woods and open sky,” and the power of fertile soil to produce vigorous men, he goes on to discuss “whether we can [23] justly refuse to attribute to their mountain scenery much share in giving the Greeks and Italians their intellectual lead among the nations of Europe.”  “There is not a single spot of land in either of these countries,” he insists, “from which mountains are not discernible; almost always they form the principal feature of the scenery.  The mountain outlines seen from Sparta, Coring, Athens, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Verona, are of consummate beauty, and whatever dislike or contempt may be traceable in the mind of the Greeks for mountain ruggedness, their placing the shrine of Apollo under the cliffs of Delphi and his throne upon Parnassus was a testimony to all succeeding time that they themselves attributed the best part of their intellectual inspiration to the poser of the hills.”

“So far as artificial productiveness and skill are concerned, it is evident that the mountaineer is at a radical and insurmountable disadvantage.  The strength of his character depends upon the absence of luxury, but it is eminently by luxury that art is supported.  We are not, therefore, to deny the mountain influence because we do not find finished frescoes on the timbers of chalets, or delicate bas-reliefs on the bastion which protects the mountain church from the avalanche, but to consider how far the tone of mind shown by the artists laboring in the lowland is dependent for its intensity on the distant influences of the hills.”

Hart’s early home was so located that he had the peace and plenty of the lowlands whilst enjoying the inspiring influence of the view that he [24] had of the purple hills in the distance.  His letters from across the sea, and the verses in which he was so fond of expressing his thoughts, are full of references to the charms of the region in which he was reared.  There is no doubt but that his character drew much of its inspiration from these scenes of his early life.

“Nature can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.”

Hart’s opportunities to obtain an education were limited indeed.  His father was poor and had become a confirmed cripple.  Only a fragment of the once ample farm remained, and the parents were too honest to send to school when they could not pay the teacher.  Even the scant provision now made by the State for the intellectual training of those who shall control its destinies, did not then exist.  The older children, who had come on the scene before the decline in the fortunes of the family, had fared better.  One of his brothers was a professional teacher.  Another was a fair scholar in the English branches, and became quite prominent as a surveyor.  Joel attended school only three months, but with the assistance received from his brothers--and especially from Thomas--advanced so far that he was able, when about grown, to teach grammar, rhetoric and arithmetic.  Whilst building fences and chimneys in Bourbon, in his twentieth [25] year, he had a class of young men whom he instructed, among other things, in the principles of politeness as laid down by Lord Chesterfield.  He developed early in life a taste for the plastic art.  His first achievement was to mould a useful button out of pewter, whilst he was a child.  Afterwards he cut and carved in wood a beautiful rolling-pin, which is still treasured in his brother’s family.  As he grew up he developed quite a talent for the mechanical arts, and especially for work in stone.

Among the nearest neighbors of young Hart’s father was Phillip B. Winn, an architect and house-builder, who had a book containing architectural and sculptural designs that early caught  Joel’s attention, and did much towards fixing his taste for the career in which he afterwards gained such eminence.  Before reaching his majority he had drifted from home in search of employment, and spent several years in Bourbon county, where he turned his hand to anything useful that brought a living.  He was fortunate enough to be domiciled in houses where books were to be had, and made good use of his time.  It was not his nature to sit down and bemoan the necessity that compelled him to labor.  Lowell might well have written of him:

“What doth the poor man’s son inherit?
Stout muscles and sinewy heart,
A hardy frame, a hardier spirit;
King of two hands, he does his part
In every useful toil and art--
A heritage, it seems to me,
A king might wish to hold in fee.”[26]

From a communication to the Paris True Kentuckian, written in 1877 by that intelligent gentleman, Frank K. Houston, of North Middletown, in whose father’s house Joel T. Hart boarded during the winter of 1832-’33, and who is with us to-day, I find the following description of the future sculptor at that period of his life:  “In personal appearance he was a model of physical manhood, standing near six feet in height, with a bold, well-poised, intellectual head.  He had the complexion of a brunette, with glossy black hair; dark, piercing eyes, a broad forehead, sharp nose and chin, a well chiseled mouth, with lips afar and teeth as white as pearl.  His wearing apparel, which was always genteel, fit him as though it had grown upon him.”

“When standing, he was stately; when moving, he bore himself like a military chieftain.  I never saw him mad.  His morals were above reproach.  He loved music and could make music; his performances on the violin and flute were soft, sweet and touching.  He was a fine conversationalist and was fond of society, and when in the social circle he was as polite and agreeable as Chesterfield himself.  He sought the cultured of either sex, but made himself agreeable to the most illiterate.  He loved prattling children and they loved him.  He laid his hand upon their heads, smiled and talked to them so pleasantly, and entered so heartily into their little sports, that they followed him about as a plaything.”  During his stay in Bourbon a traveling phrenologist told him that he was born to be a sculptor.  Whether this affected his career I do not know, but about this [27] time he abandoned his earlier purpose of studying law or medicine.  He followed his destined end and way.

“Man’s life is all a mist, and in the dark our fortunes meet us.
If fate be not, then what can we foresee?
And how can we avoid it if it be?
If by free will in our own hearts we move,
How are we bounded by decrees above?
Whether we drive or whether we are driven;
If ‘ill, ‘tis ours; if good, the act of Heaven.”
I have the authority of Mr. Houston for saying that it was whilst in Bourbon, Hart determined to become a sculptor.  He had acquired great skill in the rude work he was chiefly engaged in.  He was as careful and particular then, as in after life he was, to do well and faithfully whatever he undertook.  I have seen in print the story of how he carried out his contract with Mr. E. W. Horton to build a chimney for a house now occupied by William Collins, the President of the North Middletown Deposit Bank.  He began by selecting a suitable corner-stone and then spent several days in squaring and engraving on it his own name.  It was finally put in place and the structure was dedicated to Joel T. Hart.  He cut his name on other stones, but always had it hid from view.  When asked by his employer why he did this, he replied:  “Ah! Horton, you do not look far enough ahead.  These engravings are not for the eye of the present generation.  If I succeed as a sculptor, I want posterity to find a pleasure in discovering that this was no ordinary man.”  He spent three months industriously engaged in building this chimney; but it stands now as solid and perfect as when first erected. [28] He went from Bourbon to Lexington, where he found employment in Pruden’s marble yard, and applied himself diligently to preparation for a higher pursuit.  Whilst thus engaged Schobal Vail Clevenger, the gifted Ohio sculptor, who afterward gave such promise of a great career, and died so young as he was returning from Italy, made a visit to Lexington.  He was by two years the junior of Hart, and, like him, had been a stone cutter, and without means to prepare himself for the higher calling of an artist.  He had been fortunate enough to attract the attention of Nicholas Longworth, the munificent friend of culture and art in Cincinnati, and through his assistance had been enabled to study anatomy and give his attention to sculpture.  He had gone to Lexington to model the bust of Henry Clay, and took no little interest in Hart, whose talent was then beginning to be recognized.  He encouraged him to persevere, and gave him much valuable information, which he had gathered from the wider field to which he had been called.  Hart took a course of lectures on anatomy at the University of Transylvania, and earnestly pursued such studies as he thought would best fit him for the career which he saw opening before him.

His earliest patron was Cassius M. Clay, the fearless friend of freedom, who became acquainted with the struggling young artist, and encouraged his efforts by giving him a commission to make his bust in marble at a remunerative price.  This first venture was quite a success, and brought him other orders in quick succession. [29]

I do not know that I am called upon in the discharge of my duty to-day to present the traditions with reference to his affaire du coeur.  He would not have been human had he not loved.  “Love is life’s end,” says Spenser.

“An end but never ending;
All joys, all sweets, all happiness awarding;
Love is life’s wealth (ne’er spent but ever spending);
More rich by giving, taking by discarding;
Love’s life’s reward, rewarded in rewarding.
Ah!  shouldst thou live but once love sweets to prove,
Thou wilt not love to live unless thou live to love.”


Although he remained a bachelor to the end of his days, Hart felt the full force of that gently passion of which the poet has said:

Man while he loves is never quite depraved,
And Woman’s Triumph is a lover saved.”


I do not yield full credence to the stories of his devotion to his early love, and of his having given to immortality, in the leading figure of the group at Lexington, the form and features of her who captivated his young affections.  I am no rude Paynim to suggest what may seem rather heretical to many of my younger hearers, but men rarely carry through life the flame which the poets with their license would make us believe to be unquenchable.

"Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart;
                                      Man may range
The court, the camp, church, vessel and the mart,
Sword, gown, gain, glory offer in exchange;
Pride, fame, ambition to fill up his heart;
And few there are whom these cannot estrange.” [30]

There is no trace in Hart’s letters, or in any of his words that are remembered, to indicate that he was the victim of unrequited affection.  The truth is, that he was wedded to art, and through the greater part of his life had no room in his heart for any other mistress.  In 1845 he went East, and made a visit to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond.  When he reached the city of Brotherly Love, which was then an art centre, the exhibition of the Artists’ Fund Society had opened.  He had taken with him his bust of Cassius M. Clay, but according to the rules he was too late to have it entered.  Through the influence of Sartain, the publisher of Sartains’s Magazine, he got a place for his work, which was greatly admired.  He remained until the summer of 1846, when he came back to Kentucky, charmed with what he had seen and heard.  In a letter to his brother, written after his return to Lexington, he says that whilst gone “he met a host of distinguished men, and received attention enough to last him a lifetime.”.  His reputation seems to have been quite extensive at that time, as during this tour he was constantly associated with the leading men in art, literature, and politics.  Whilst in Washington the President was very kind to him; but he was most pleased with his visits to Baltimore and Richmond.  In a letter to his brother, he says that the Virginians and Marylanders are “the most hospitable and gallant people he had ever met.”  He made the acquaintance when gone of old men who had known Washington, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, Madison, and the other great characters of that era. [31]

The one person who seems to have impressed him most was John Quincy Adams, whose culture and information with reference to literature and art he pronounces marvelous.

Whilst in Baltimore a gentleman of wealth employed him to make an ideal figure which was to cost $4000.  During the trip he had several orders for busts, and at Richmond made a contract to execute a marble statue of Henry Clay, for which he was to be paid $5000, five hundred on demand, one thousand when he sailed for Italy, and the remainder when the work was completed.  As soon as he returned to Lexington he began to model the statue of the Great Commoner, who gave him every opportunity to make a true and faithful presentment of his commanding presence.  Hart studied his subject carefully, and had his picture taken time and again by a very accomplished daguerreotypist, whom he had employed to come from Cincinnati for that purpose.  He had drawings of his figure from every point of view, and not only made accurate, careful measurement of his limbs and body, but had plaster casts that could not be otherwise than reliable.  He was delayed by several circumstances, and did not leave for Italy until in September, 1849.

He chose Florence rather than Rome as a place better suited to his tastes.  It was the chief center of Art in Europe, and therefore in the world.  “Florence is the second patrimony of beauty,” says Taine “Athens was first.”  It had been the home of Dante, of Petrarch, of Michael Angelo, of Da Vinci, of Machiavelli, of Galileo, of [32] Americus Vespucius, of Giotto, of the Medicis, and of a host of others, illustrious for what they had done in the higher walks of life.  It is Benjamin Disraeli, I believe, who says of Florence:  “You can not stroll fifty yards, you can not enter a church or a palace without being favorably reminded of the power of human thought.  In Florence the monuments are not only of great men but of the greatest.  You do not gaze upon the tomb of an author who is merely a master of composition, but of one who formed the language.  The illustrious astronomer is not the discoverer of a planet, but the revealer of the whole celestial machinery.  The artist and the politician are not merely the first sculptors and statesmen, but the inventors of the very art and very craft in which they excelled.”  The city abounds in the masterpieces of painting, sculpture and architecture, and contains several of the richest libraries in the world.  One mausoleum, built as the final resting place of a single family, has had expended on it more than seventeen million dollars.  Rogers, in his Italy, says truly:  “Of all the fairest cities of the earth, none is so fair as Florence.”

When Hart went to Washington to obtain his passports, he was made the bearer of dispatches to the American Ministers at London and Paris, and was kindly told by Secretary of State Clayton that had he been ten days earlier he would have been appointed Consul at Rome.  With his accustomed singleness of purpose he replied that this would not have suited him, as he had made up his mind to go to Florence.  He had letters of introduction to the best people in Italy, but with a diffidence [33] and modesty which were innate, he hesitated to present them.  I have at home, in a letter from a very accomplished lady of Philadelphia, a story in this connection which throws light upon his disposition.  When he went to Italy he took with him, from a friend in Cincinnati, a letter to the head of the old and noble family of Torregiana, who was himself a gentleman of culture and refinement.

The famous sculptor who broke Michael Angelo’s nose and worked in the chapel of Henry VII, in Westminster Abbey, was of this stock.  Hart hesitated to present the letter, but Torregiana finally heard that he was in Florence, and calling, placed himself at his service and was very kind in his attentions.  It seems that the noble Italian had been traveling in America, and in those days of slow communication with Europe, failed to receive a remittance which he had expected to find awaiting him at Cincinnati, and was thus left without funds.  Hart’s friend, who had given him the letter of introduction, had believed that he was what he had professed to be, and had opened his purse to him in a generous, liberal manner.  The influence on Hart of the change from Lexington, then, as now, a place of unusual culture and refinement for its size, to such a city as Florence, was most marked.  At home he had been without a rival in his line.  In Florence he was overwhelmed by a sense of his inferiority and of his lack of training for the great work he had come to do.  He did not despair, however, but began at once to take a course which would repair the defects in his earlier training.  He studied anatomy [34] fourteen months in the best medical schools at London, visited Paris and Rome, and carefully observed the greatest efforts of the masters in painting and sculpture.  He took a course of reading in the best English literature, and sought the society of the most cultivated people.  Among his intimate friends in Florence was Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose Aurora Leigh is the noblest utterance ever made by woman.  The model of his statue of Clay, which he so carefully prepared before leaving home, was lost at sea.  Fortunately it was in duplicate, but it was a year before he was ready to go to work.  The Virginia society failed for some time to send him the second installment of $1000, on the faith of which he had gone abroad.  He had an attack of cholera, and was so reduced physically that it took a long time to regain his strength.  Alter he had recovered from this illness he was prostrated with typhoid fever, which came near ending his career.  Had he not been fortunate in obtaining orders for busts, he would have found it impossible to remain abroad.

Among other patrons that he had during this period was President Fillmore.  Soon after going to Italy he had invented an instrument, which, to use his own words, “applied science to sculpture.”  He wrote to his brother Thomas concerning this machine in 1857:  “The sculptors Powers, and the rest of them in general, hate it like the devil, however friendly they would appear towards myself, because they see I can do three times as much work by its application as any one of them can do, and more perfectly; but the whole troupe in all this time have failed to [35] break me down.  Their influence was so strong, however, that during three years I got but one bust to make, and have not yet received a cent of the $500 I am to be paid for it.”

During the same year that this letter was written, he secured commissions whilst in London to make ten marble busts at $500 each.  He writes that the press had treated him with much kindness, and had done him great service in bringing his work into notice.  He spent a great deal of time in having his invention patented in Great Britain and France and the other leading countries of Europe.  He claimed that with its help he could complete a bust in from three to six days.  He was quite hopeful of his ability through his machine to furnish copies of the best works of the masters at prices within the reach of so many people, that they would be scattered over the world and help on the work of cultivating and improving its masses.  James Jacques Jarvis, of Boston, has written quite a readable book on “The Art Idea,” in which he takes occasion to refer to this invention of Hart “as a machine to reduce sculpture to an external accuracy of lines and dots.  This, indeed, may give the crust of mind, but feeling and thought depend upon the artist himself.  No machine can compensate for their absence.”  All of which  goes to show how little the most self-complacent critic may know.  The artist conceives the idea and creates the model; the carver puts it into marble.  The invention of Hart had little to do with the sculptor’s part of the work.  The marble is reduced to shape by other hands, and then the artist gives the finishing touches. [36] His invention was used by a great many persons, but never brought to him a cent of profit.  In writing about this to his brother, he said, with characteristic unselfishness and generosity, that he “did not care for the money, but had his reward in the satisfaction of knowing that he had benefited humanity.”

It was not until 1859 that the statue of Clay was ready for shipment.  It was at first set up in front of the Capitol at Richmond, but now occupies a place in the rotunda facing the statue of Washington by Houdon.  A Virginia friend, who is one of the most promising of the young litterateurs of the South, has recently written me a description of Hart’s work.  He says that all who know Clay pronounce it perfect in its likeness, and gives it high praise for its finish of execution and resemblance to life; but he criticizes sharply what may be called its drapery.  He does not think that “a cutaway or swallow-tailed coat and pants, a vest open at the throat, and turned over collar, with flowing cravat, at all suited for idealization.”  The same comment has been made by the author of “The Art Idea.”  He condemns Power’s Webster and Hart’s Clay, and says “they are too much like the stuffed scarecrows of cornfields, the drapery, heavy or commonplace, being but a coarse artifice to conceal the inability of the sculptor to master anatomy and bestow dignified action or graceful repose upon his work.”  But other figures made by both Powers and Hart show that these were not their reasons for giving to their statue-portraits the clothing of the period in which their subjects lived.  The ancients, who are continually held [37] up as models of taste, had great advantage of the moderns in this matter of drapery.  The vestments worn by the countrymen of Phidias and Praxiteles were simple and graceful, and did not change in style.  But it would not have been Clay or Webster had Hart or Powers dressed them after the fashion of those who lived in Greece or Rome ages ago.  What they might have gained in classical excellence they would have lost in propriety and vraisemblance (sic).

There is another matter to be considered in comparing the drapery of modern statues with that of the ancients.  The conditions are radically different.  Even absolute nudity was so common at the great public games that it did not offend good taste or shock the most refined fastidiousness of the Greeks or Romans.  In both Greece and Rome the costumes worn by men displayed the form and especially the limbs.  In those ages, when war was so frequent, and when the weapons were swords and bows and arrows, muscle and vigor of body were held in higher esteem.  In his lectures on Art, Taine explains why the artists of the Renaissance were almost exclusively employed in delineating the human form.  All were judges of its proportions, and none would be satisfied with a statue or picture that did not present a body perfect in limb and muscle.  All this has been changed.  We live under a new dispensation.  Intellect and soul rank higher now than physical qualities.  If the artist of to-day has given the lineaments of his subject’s countenance, and has placed in bronze or marble its expression, those who look upon the work prefer [38] to have the form presented as it appeared among men.  Among the Greeks, the Romans and the Italians, a statue was esteemed in proportion to its symmetry and beauty.  With us, it is chiefly a lesson.  “A statue is an example,” says Victor Hugo.  “The lofty head of a great man is a light.   Crowds, like the waves, require beacons above them.  It is good that the passer by should know that there are great men.  People may not have time to read; they are forced to see.  One passes that way and stumbles against the pedestal; one is almost obliged to raise the head and glance at the inscription.  Men escape a book; they can not escape the statue.  The people need such an introduction to their great men.  The  monument incites them to know more of the man.  They desire to learn to read in order to know what this bronze or this marble means.  A statue is a nudge to ignorance.”

This, then, being the function of a statue, it ought not to present Henry Clay in the garb of a Greek or a Roman, because if it did the masses of the people for whose benefit it was made would not believe it to be true.  He was not an athlete or a soldier.  His eminence was due to the force of his intellect and the grandeur of his soul, which were revealed in his countenance and not in his body or limbs.  Houdon’s statue of Washington at Richmond presents the father of his country in his own proper costume.  Flaxman’s Lord Mansfield appears in the judicial robe worn by English judges, and Thorwaldsen’s Byron has on it the dress of the day in which the poet lived.  Certain it is that Clay desired to be handed down to posterity as [39] he appeared whilst speaking in the American Senate, and this could not have been done had the artist put on his marble representation the drapery of another age and race.  Hart came to America to be present at the unveiling of his statue, and was received with much respect everywhere.  He remained in his native land eight months, and during his time visited the friends who had survived the long period of his absence.  He had thought to establish a studio in New York, but could not do so then.  He had received an order for a copy of his statue of Clay, to be placed in the court-house at Louisville, and had other work on hand which he could nowhere complete so satisfactorily as in the city where the greatest artists had lived.  Consequently he returned to Florence firmly resolved at a future day to come back to America and make his home in the metropolis of the Union.  Before going to Europe the first time, he had formed the design of making an ideal group on which he would rest his hopes of enduring fame.  In Midsummer Night’s Dream there is a beautiful picture drawn by the master hand of all literature, and evidently intended as a delicate compliment to Queen Elizabeth, from which Hart may unconsciously have had a suggestion of his ideal:

“That very time I marked, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth
Cupid all armed.  A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And launched his love shaft from his bow
As he would pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery dart
Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the inspired votaress passed on
In maiden meditation, fancy free.” [40]

He read and thought much about his conception, and studied and measured the proportions of form and feature in every beautiful woman that he could get within reach of, during more than thirty years of his life.  When it was possible to he took casts of limbs and other portions of the body, and spent years in the most careful consideration of anatomical subjects.  When it seemed to have reached completion, he was offered $20,000 for the group, but said no, it was not yet ready to leave the studio.  When he had been working on it for a long time, he was asked why he did not finish it sooner.  He replied that it took Almighty God eighteen years to make a perfect woman, and certainly he could not be required to do the same thing in a shorter period.  Finally, however, to use his own words in a letter to Gen. Clay, he “gratified his passion in modeling a life ideal virgin and child in a group--not the Christian virgin and child, however.  The figures are nude--Beauty’s Triumph.  She being assailed by Cupid, rests her left foot on his exhausted quiver and holds his last arrow in triumph, for which he pleads, tiptoeing, reaching after it.  It gives the most graceful and finest possible attitude both in the woman and the boy.  The idea is modern and my own.”

This culmination of Hart’s dreams and labors was finished in clay, but the work of putting it into marble, although far advanced, had not been completed when he died.  On it his reputation as an artist must, in great part, rest.

I am informed by a distinguished citizen of this State, that when in Italy many years ago Hiram Powers told him he regarded Joel T. Hart as the [41] best bust maker he had ever known; but this does not rank as the highest grade of the sculptor’s art.

Woman Triumphant presents to the world as perfect an image of the female form as can be produced in marble.  It is not formed after the Grecian model, but represents that greater race which in England and America has reached the highest development of human power and virtue.  It is the personification in marble of the loveliest proportions ever seen in the American woman, and exhibits a grace, a modesty, a refinement and an intellectuality never seen in the ancient or mediaeval homes of art.  With all their charming naturalness, the Venus de Medici, the Venus of Cnidus, and the Venus of Cos, which are the most valued relics of antiquity, and have been the models for  all subsequent attempts to portray in marble the beauties of the female form, are coarse and sensual when compared with the principal figure of Hart’s group.  Woman did not occupy the same position in the ancient world that she does in free America, under the influence of the Christian religion, which gives her the homage due to a being who was last at the cross and first at the grave of the Master.  Even in Greece she was, from the very circumstances of her situation, an inferior being, and such the sculptors were bound to represent her.  In presenting their conceptions of the gods, the noblest artists of antiquity could not rise above them.  Ruskin thus comments on the Apollo Belvidere, which stands pre-eminent in all the efforts made by pagan sculptors to present the masculine form:  “I know not any thing in the range of art more unspiritual than the Apollo Belvidere; the raising of the fingers [42] of the right hand in surprise at the touch of the arrow is altogether human, and would be vulgar in a prince, much less in a deity.  The sandals destroy the divinity of the foot, and the lip is curled with mortal passion.”

When Cassius M. Clay first saw Hart’s group he remarked that he was glad to see that the artist had not put on the female figure one of those guinea fowl heads which characterize classic sculpture.  It is the presentation of a noble, genuine woman, charming in her physical proportions, but still more attractive in the refined and intellectual suggestions of the figure.  She is not offended at love, and does not prudishly drive him away, but sweetly and gently shows him that she is not in his power.  The greatest of artists have done ridiculous, absurd things, which we accept under the sanction of their names.  Take, for instance, Michael Angelo with his Pieta, which is applauded as one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance.  And yet what could be more unreasonable than the idea that a delicate woman should sit and hold in her lap the body of a full-grown man covered with blood, or what more inartistic thought could be presented--and yet, the restorer of art in the Middle Ages places the Virgin Mary and the crucified Savior in this attitude, and it is accounted to him as a lofty conception.  I have thought that Powers’ Greek Slave looks rather refined, and is too indifferent to her situation in the open market to be true to what the artist intended to say through her figure; but I do not know that critics would agree with me. [43]

In Hart’s masterpiece, the thought is worthy of an artist; the harmonies are complete, and the figures are certainly the best that could be produced after thirty years of study, observation and actual measurement.

During his life Hart did other ideal work which attracted much attention--Penserosa, Angelina, and the Morning Glory were especially notable.  I shall never forget the impression made on me by an ideal bust of Cicero, which I saw in the President’s house when I called in 1860 to present myself for admission to Centre College.  It was cut by Joel T. Hart, and I have it as clearly now in my mind’s eye as it was visible to actual vision a quarter of a century ago.  Hart could paint a little, and had a great facility for making verses.  It was one of his ambitions to be considered a poet, and nothing gave him more pleasure in his later years than to have an appreciative listener whilst he read aloud his own productions.  When William Cullen Bryant visited Florence, a dinner was given to him by the American residents, and Hart was the poet of the occasion.  In Tuckerman’s American Artist Life, a portion of the poem read by him is preserved, and I present it here:

“Shall I be mute while here my country’s pride,
Her youth, her beauty, and her manhood throng
This treasure house, its portals opened wide
Where I and some proud names have toiled so long,
And see to-day my country’s Sire of song
Crowned with his snowy splendors--laurels won--
Moulding the veteran’s heart!

*               *               *               *               *               *               *

Thrice welcome to these shores, great bard, who sang
The song of ‘God’s First Temples’ with the fire
Of Freedom--could her spirits list thy tongue
Some rapt ‘Evangeline’ would hush her choir
And Alfieri throw around his lyre
The starry flag, prophetic of his own;
While, listening, Dante’s spirit would aspire.”[44]

In his will he expressed a strong desire that what he had written should be published in book form; but it has not been done.  I learn, through a letter from Florence, that much of his manuscript was sold to the paper dealers.  A lady went to her green grocer for a pound of butter, and when it came it was wrapped in a sheet of paper on which Hart had written one of his poems.  So passes the glory of this world.  What is left of his literary work came to the hands of his friend, H. C. Pindell, of Louisville, who was requested in Hart’s will to have it published; but he is now dead, and his widow does not know what to do with the trust.

Within the last few weeks one of his machines for reducing marble into shape, a bundle of his manuscript, and the models of his busts of Jackson, Alexander Campbell, and others, have been received at Louisville, and are now deposited among the treasures of the Polytechnic Society.

Hart took much interest in struggling young men of his own pursuit, and was always ready to give them a helping hand.  A nephew, named Robert Hart, who had been a stone cutter in Palmyra, Missouri, went to Italy and showed much talent for sculpture.  He died before he attained the eminence to which he would without doubt have reached.  Hart also took under his care a young man from Baltimore named Rhinehart, who, by his ability and artistic skill, gave promise of the highest success in his art.  His death was a severe blow to Hart, who was as much attached to him as if he had been his son.

Hart himself died at Florence in 1877, and was [45] buried in the cemetery of that lovely city, which is noted throughout the world for the beauty which nature and art have combined to bestow upon it.  In 1884, Thomas G. Stuart, then the member of the Legislature from Clark, introduced, and, by dint of tireless energy and perseverance, inspired by admiration for so illustrious a fellow-countryman, and by devotion to the memory of the friend of his father and mother, secured the passage of a bill providing for the removal of the remains we have before us to a grave in the soil of the State he loved so well.  It was no slight task to obtain such an appropriation for so purely a sentimental purpose; but with the aid of the reportorial corps then in Frankfort, and especially of the late T. C. Tracy, who represented one of the Louisville dallies, it was finally pulled through.

At the last session of the General Assembly, at the instance of Hon. James F. Winn, from the same county, a supplemental bill was introduced and became a law, directing the Governor to have these bones put to final rest with appropriate ceremonies at the expense of the State in this lovely spot of ground.  One circumstance or another, beyond the control of His Excellency, has caused the intervening delay, and we are here to-day to testify by those last rites, unostentatious as they are, to the interest that Kentucky takes in her sons who add glory to her name.  What we now restore to mother earth would have rested as quietly on the shores of the Arno as above the waters of the Kentucky, and would have risen at the last great day from Italian soil as readily as from these commanding cliffs; but the representatives of the people [46] who are proud of his achievements, preferred that he should come home to rest.  I honor the feeling that prompted this course, and sincerely hope that the next Legislature will provide for the erection of a suitable monument to mark the spot where lies her pioneer sculptor.

The agitation consequent upon the effort to have his remains brought to America, led to the organization of an association of ladies at Lexington for the purpose of buying his masterpiece and making it the foundation of an art gallery in that lovely city.  It had been finished by Saul, an English sculptor, who was one of the executor’s of Hart’s will, and had come into the possession of Tiffany & Co. of New York, who were willing to sell it for $5000.  This sum was at length raised, and it now stands in the rotunda of the beautiful new courthouse at Lexington, a possession--

“Whose form of beauty can not fade or change;
We drop and wither like the autumn leaves,
Closing the eyes that see it in blind death
As age succeeds age; but this sweet marble
Shall greet the generations yet to come
With freshness of imperishable renown.”


That Hart was a great inventive genius, such as Phidias or Michael Angelo, I am not disposed to claim; but that this ideal group indicates marked talent and taste, and that he had a patient ambition, an enthusiastic love of his art, and the truest appreciation of the beautiful, none can deny.  To the thoughtful mind it is clear that he had a mission beyond the making of busts, the modeling of statues, or the creation [47] of ideal figures.  Early in this century, John Adams, who had been President of the United States, and was a man of culture, wrote to Binon, a French sculptor:  “The age of sculpture and painting has not yet arrived in this country, and I hope it will be long before it does so.  I would not give a sixpence for a picture by Raphael or a statue by Phidias.”  The fathers of the republic were eminently practical and gave little thought to the ideal.  As our institutions become settled and wealth increases, the esthetic should receive more attention.  We are not mere animals.  We have minds and spirits, and can now afford to develop what is highest in their powers.  “The human soul,” says one of the masters of literature, “has greater need of the ideal than of the real.  It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.  Would you realize the difference?  Animals exist, man lives.”

“To live is to understand.  To live is to smile at the present; it is to be able to see over the wall of the future.  To live is to have in one’s self a balance and to weigh in it good and evil.  To live, is to have justice, truth, reason, devotion, probity, sincerity, common sense, right and duty welded to the heart.  To live is to know what one is worth, what one can do and should do.”

The career of Joel T. Hart has drawn the attention of many persons in Kentucky to that higher art which Longfellow declares embraces

“All that embellishes and sweetens life,
And lifts it from the level of low cares
Into the purer atmosphere of beauty--
               The faith in the Ideal.”[48]

The effort made by those noble ladies, and the public exhibition of his great work in the capital city of the blue-grass, have created a circle of influence which will widen and spread until the people of the State shall feel that they must have higher aims and loftier purposes.  I do not know what more to say about the man as he was known to his fellows.  It would not profit to tell you of his political views.  Suffice is to say, that he loved freedom and humanity.  He was reared in the school of Jefferson and of Jackson, and adhered to its faith, unless the white plume of Harry of the West should appear upon the field.  In such a presence he cared nothing for theories or party lines, but yielded unhesitatingly to his impulse to follow that glittering and glorious personality.  He was never a believer in slavery, and writes proudly to a friend that the only political convention he ever attended was that called by Cassius M. Clay, in 1849, and which met in this city to consider the question of emancipation.

If a man’s character may be understood from a study of his associates, then would Hart be fortunate.  His intimate friends were among the most refined and intelligent of each community in which he lived.  I would not want a better testimonial that Hart had in the life-long devotion and tender affection of such a man as Dr. John T. Wilson, of Lexington, whom I see present to-day.

You may, perchance, want to know his religious views.  How could one who so loved God’s creatures be other than devout?  He was an earnest, faithful believer in the Gospel of peace and love, but was so tender and gentle in his feelings that [49] he would not accept the doctrines of divine retribution.  In his creed he had room for the salvation of all men and held to the Universalist’s faith.  Let those of us who do not agree with him in politics or religion, be as tolerant of his views as he ever was of those of others, and there will be no word of harsh or unkind comment.  It is our duty to-day to consider the man in the aspects that have given him recognition from the State.

His life has shown what material we have in one quarry of our population.  The obstacles that impeded his progress should convince us that we can well afford any sacrifices needed to furnish our youth full opportunity for the most thorough mental training.  The honors that he received, the gentleness of his disposition, the satisfaction that he felt in studying the noblest conceptions of all the ages, and the fame that he leaves after him, ought  to persuade the rising generation that the gross material things of the world are its least desirable possessions, and incline the hearts of all towards whatever will beautify our homes and adorn our public places.  In the court house of Hart’s native county there are portraits of the leading men whom that county has produced.  These have a tendency to soften and elevate the lives of all who look upon them and catch the significance of their exhibition.

In other parts of the State the aid of art has been invoked to make attractive the temples of justice.  At Louisville it is a statue of Clay by Hart, at Paris a bust of Garrett Davis by Henry, and at Owingsville a portrait of Menifee [50] by Jouett.  But to Lexington and the county of Fayette is reserved the glory of having made a higher flight than has been attempted elsewhere in the south or west.  The object lesson in ideal art which “Woman Triumphant” will present to the ages, ought to stimulate a love of the beautiful which will lift the people everywhere from the low ground of their daily struggle for the beggarly elements of the world and make them to realize that life has other aims than the gratification of the senses.  May the life and work of the true artist, whose remains we have before us, stimulate an interest in sculpture, painting and architecture, until we shall have art galleries in our cities, beautiful public buildings in all our county towns, portraits and statues of our worthiest citizens wherever they can be appropriately placed, and idealizations in marble or on canvas of whatever is most glorious, heroic or commendable in our history.  These would play no insignificant part in elevating the masses, until all men shall have been made fit to yield wisely and intelligently the tremendous power of the ballot.  When public sentiment has been thus informed, there will be built at the Capital of our Commonwealth a State-house worthy of the people to whom it will belong, tasteful in its design, beautiful in its proportions, and adorned with the noblest products of brush and chisel.  And, oh posterity!  to whom we fluttering moths of to-day must commit the construction of such a Pantheon, I implore you to lay its foundations broad enough to give room for all who have added to the renown of Kentucky at home or abroad.  Give ample space to [51] Boone and Kenton, Clark and Shelby, and the other pioneers who furnished the courage and the physical endurance needed to relieve the dark and bloody ground from savage domination.

Let Clay and Crittenden, Barry and Guthrie, the Breckinridges and the Marshalls, have their niches.  Place therein full-sized statues of Hanson, Jackson, Nelson, and Morgan, and the other gallant spirits on either side who, in later years, maintained so nobly the early renown of Kentucky for heroic daring and chivalric courage.  Do not forget the great civic chieftain of the struggle of preservation of the Union, and whose noble character is demonstrated by the increasing reverence in which his memory is held by those who were once his foes, nor that other illustrious native of the State who presided over the fortunes of the Lost Cause, when the stars and bars signified a living government, and who has never abated one jot or one tittle of his devotion to the principle of local self-government for which he then so manfully contended.  And since I have referred to the living, I must not omit to mention that great-hearted friend of humanity, who, whether as the beloved physician fighting the pestilence that stalks on noonday, or as the faithful Governor trying to ameliorate the condition of the poor wretches who have forfeited their rights as members of society, has always shown himself to be the same brave, true, honest man.

And even at the risk of bringing a blush to a modest check, I will venture to predict that the author of the Duluth speech, which will be read as a classic of the English language when the [52] names of our Governors shall have been forgotten, will be accorded no mean place in that Pantheon of Kentuckians who have not lived in vain.  And when the people have thus been lifted up, and the power of art to refine, to civilize and elevate, has been demonstrated in its results, let it not be forgotten that Joel T. Hart was the first artist of the Commonwealth to consecrate himself to a career which had perfection for its ideal and immortality for its aim, and into whose dreams there entered no thought of self and no care for the pecuniary rewards so prized by men.  Worshiping a blind ideal like a girl, he forewent the comforts of home, closed his heart to the sweet influences of love for woman, and becoming a voluntary exile during nearly half of his long years, gave himself up to the toils, the anxieties, the vexations and the discomforts of a life which he knew that he must lead in order to succeed in the great purpose that he had in view.  He leaves behind as the result of all this self-denial an example of purity, of gentleness, of lofty aim, of courageous perseverance, and of sweetest faith that should lift those who are acquainted with it from the mire of their daily existence and strengthen them to go forward with higher ambition and less faltering footsteps.  He might  have remained where he was born and engaged in the pursuits of those about him, and yet have been worthy in the sight of God and man.  He chose to take a higher flight, and to-day men leave their daily tasks to gather here in honor to his memory.  And, throughout the ages his work will remind all lovers of the [53] beautiful that there came from the backwoods of Kentucky a being capable of the thought embodied in the marble forms of the group at Lexington.

And now as we close these solemn ceremonies, let me adjure you, oh friends and countrymen, to carry with you from a consideration of this life a higher conception of the fine arts whose value and importance Joel T. Hart comprehended at a period when books and school-houses were scarce in the region where he lived, and when the pioneers of this Commonwealth still walked the earth.  They are not the exclusive servants of the rich, nor should they veil their glories from the poor.  They are not to be valued as they were in ancient Egypt, chiefly because they could create the marble, bronze or wooden figures in which the ka, or soul, might find refuge from oblivion when the body had decayed, or, as in Greece, when they gave form and body to the fables of the poets, and made gods and goddesses so beautiful that even those whom Aristotle, Plato and Socrates taught were content to worship them, or, as in Rome, where they flattered the vanity or encouraged the ambition of great spirits who aspired to have their forms and features preserved in the marble that would be accorded positions of honor in public places, or, as in the Renaissance, where they were the faithful tools of the church in subjugating the wills of men and giving them over to clerical domination.

In this broad western world, whose future the most expanded intellect and the widest vision can not reach far enough to comprehend, in this marvelous [54] land, the hope and home of freedom, the advance guard of civilization, of liberty and of progress, if we would encourage the gentle influences that sweeten life, strengthen the forces of law and order, and bring men nearer to God, we must make the ideal arts familiar spirits, we must take them into our homes, we must teach them in our schools, we must encourage them by our laws, we must exhibit them in our landscapes, we must use them in our worship, and patronize them in the cities of our dead.  “Science does its duty,” says Ruskin, “not in telling us the causes of spots on the sun, but in explaining to us the laws of our own life, and the consequences of their violation.  Art does its duty, not in filling monster galleries with frivolous or dreadful or indecent pictures, but in completing the comforts and refining the pleasures of daily occurrence and familiar service; and literature does its duty, not in wasting our hours in political discussion or in idle fiction, but in raising our fancy to the height of what may be noble, honest, and felicitous in actual life; in giving us, though we may ourselves be poor and unknown, companionship of the wisest spirits of every age and country, and in aiding the communication of clear thoughts and faithful purposes among distant nations which will at last breathe calm upon the seas of lawless passion, and change into halcyon days the winter of the world, that the birds of the air may have their nests in peace, and the son of man where to lay his head.”

The address of Judge Beckner was not published in the Courier-Journal from want of space. [55]

At its close the band played in slow and tender strains “Old Kentucky Home,” when Prof. J. D. Pickett pronounced a most impressive benediction, and the band again discoursed “Home, Sweet Home” as the earth fell upon the coffin inclosing the remains.




Although there had been much talk about placing a marker for Joel Tanner Hart, it did not happen until seven years later.  The resolution (below) was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1894, to order and erect a monument for her native son.  Upon looking through the old legislative records, much talk had been made of how small the coffers were for even the essential services, let alone purchasing a marker for a private individual.  It would seem natural that every time such a discussion arose, there were those in the General Assembly that felt that this was the family’s responsibility, not the government’s.  Two Governor’s later, the following resolution was passed to handle this need:



to provide marking the grave of Joel T. Hart.


     WHEREAS, A former General Assembly had the remains of Joel T. Hart brought from Italy and re-interred in the cemetery at Frankfort; and whereas, this action was taken because of the glory reflected on his native State by the achievements of the great sculptor whose memory was thus honored; and whereas, the work of caring for his mortal remains, thus begun with so much honor to the State, is incomplete until their resting place is suitably marked; therefore,

Be it resolved by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of  Kentucky:

     That the Governor be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to have a monument or tombstone erected over the grave of said Hart, with a suitable inscription thereon, and the sum of five hundred dollars is hereby appropriated out of the Treasury with which to pay for same, to be paid on the warrant of the Auditor whenever the Governor shall certify same to said officer.

Approved March 15, 1894


            ***Lexington Leader, October 17, 1895***


Governor Brown Selects the Epitaph

For the Dead Sculptor’s Monument.


The last legislature appropriated $500 for the erection of a monument over Joel Hart’s grave in the Frankfort Cemetery.  Governor Brown selected the design some time ago, and awarded the contract to Muldoon, of Louisville.  The work is nearly ready for the inscription, which the Legislature left to the choice of the Governor.  Governor Brown requested several Kentuckians to write out for him a suitable inscription for the monument.  Out of a number of suggestions received, the Governor has selected the following written by Mr. Robert Burns Wilson:


Seek him not here, but in the stone where He lives in his own art’s immortality.


The Lexington Press wrote that Colonel James A. McKenzie had suggested on Joel T. Hart’s monument, when erected, the beautiful closing verse in the poem of Mrs. Rosa Vertner Jeffrey, read by General Hardin at the burial of the remains of the great sculptor.  It is a most appropriate verse, and would be a fitting conclusion of worded honors.  The verse is as follows:


“Stranger’s sang our sculptors praises,
In rare flowers his tomb was dressed;
But ‘neath bluegrass sod and daisies
We have brought him home to rest.”

 Another person (name unknown) upon reading the above, suggested the following:


His memory shall perish not -- his name
Shall fill the ages with his deathless fame!
He ever lives in works his hand hath wrought--
The sculptor’s art immortalizes thought!


Over eighteen years had passed since the death of Joel T. Hart before a handsome monument was finally erected over his burial site in Frankfort.  The Muldoon Monument Co. of Louisville, Ky, had been selected to make and deliver this monument.  It cost $500.00, plus $10.46 in freight, $2.76 in drayage, $20.00 for the foundation, $28.48 for lettering, $15.00 for setting it, and another $21.20 for “Sundries.”  The was placed on July 29, 1895, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky was billed on December 1, 1895.  The author is unaware of any dedication ceremony when the monument was put in place.  This monument reads as follows:






FEBRUARY 11th, 1810


MARCH 2nd, 1877




            ***Kentucky Progress Magazine, Sept. 4, 1931, Pp. 31, 47***


Kentuckians Saw Hart’s Masterpiece

“Woman Triumphant” In Early Stages

By William C. Kendrick


In the year 1873, in company with Mr. Albert S. Willis, who afterward became very prominent in the political world locally and as Congressman from this district, being sent by the Cleveland Administration to the Hawaiian Islands for an adjustment of the troubles then existing, I made a trip to Europe, during which we spent several days in Florence, Italy, and while there, we determined to call upon a Kentuckian who had won fame and was at this time engaged upon a model of a statue that was to make him famous the world over.  I have reference, of course, to Kentucky’s most prominent and greatest sculptor, the eccentric Joel T. Hart.

Upon inquiry, we soon found where he was located, and an interesting walk through the narrow and irregular streets soon brought us to a barn-like establishment, built directly upon the street.  There are very few pavements or sidewalks, as we call them, in Florence.  We at first stood and wondered if we could have made a mistake, because of the appearance of the house to which we were directed.

There were two large doors, the same as are most generally found in the entrance to a stable, and in one of these was cut a smaller door for a single person to enter.  A ring of the gong soon brought an answer, and as the door was thrown open there stood before us an elderly man with long gray beard and hair, with a smoking cap upon his head and what we would properly call a bathrobe or smoking wrapper around his body.

Studio is entered.  This quiet mannered man invited us in and on stepping over the threshold, our feet rested immediately upon the hard clay floor of a large room in which there were a number of pieces of square marble ready to be used in developing his works of art.  We were then shown into a small room to our right, which had the same kind of floor.  It was lighted by two windows, and a small cot rested against the far wall.

Directly in the center of this small room stood a clay model in process of completion, upon which Mr. Hart had been at work for a number of years -- just how many I do not now recall.  He seemed to have his whole attention riveted upon this one central object.  Even while we were talking to him he would get up, go to a tub sitting close at hand that was nearly filled with water, take up an ordinary squirt-gun, as we boys used to call it, which was nothing more than a piece of cane with a suction handle in one end and holes in the other, and sprinkle the clay model all over.

He gave us to understand that he must do this to keep the clay moist, and in the many years that he had been working upon it, it had never been permitted to dry.  Even during the night many times he would arise to see that the proper moisture was given to the model.  Not only this, but during our stay of probably an hour or more once or twice, while still talking to us, he would get up from his seat, take his flat-bladed knife, approach the model and smooth off a little here and a little there, and possibly add to it at another point, just as, in his eye, he saw that that special place needed attention.

It was thus, with his constancy and determination to have perfection developed in this special model, that he afterward presented to the world his great masterpiece, “Woman Triumphant” or “Triumph of Chastity.”  Furthermore was it interesting to us when he said that not only were Italians asked to pose for this model, but many of our good American people had loaned the best of their God-given form to the creation of this masterpiece.

He talked most interestingly, not only of this special subject that was before us, but afterward he stepped into the main room, through which we had passed, and showed to us a beautiful square block of marble, and said:  “In yonder room is the model which I propose to produce in this matchless piece of marble.  It seems to be faultless.”  Then he turned to show us other pieces of work that his co-laborers were chiseling in marble from the models he had made.

Interesting process.  It was of much interest to see the process by which this was done, but would take too much time for me now to go into detail to tell just how he told it to us further than to say that after Mr. Hart had completed his model, whatever that model might be, he then placed it before his associate, who would chisel the form in general from the block of marble.  After he had gotten it into the rough and nearly to completion, then the master stroke would be applied by the famous sculptor himself, so that his work was that of modeling and then putting the finishing touch on the statue after the rough work had been done on the marble by his co-laborers.

Going back further into another room, there were quite a number of models of works that had been completed.  Immediately I called the attention of my traveling companion to the one that was particularly familiar to us, and that was the original from which the Henry Clay Statue, now standing in the rotunda of our Louisville courthouse, was made.  Mr. Hart was very hospitable in his manner toward us and said, “I think possibly you Kentuckians would like to see just how I make my home here.”

After showing us through the several rooms down stairs, in which were his models, some in process of completion and others already complete and set aside, also the marbles waiting for the models’ reproduction, he then took us into his sleeping apartment.  He spent most of his nights on the cot or lounge by the side of his great masterpiece, but above in a loft, reached by a ladder, was his quiet resting place, which he called home.  Here, lonely and separate from the world, he conceived the great things that brought so much pleasure to all lovers of art.

I do not know that an hour was ever more pleasantly spent, so full of intense interest from the time we entered his door until we bade him good-bye, than was that seemingly short one with the famous and now deceased Joel T. Hart, Kentucky’s renowned sculptor.


            ***Sunday Lexington Herald-Leader, March 25, 1951***




WOMAN TRIUMPHANT, LEXINGTON -- This famous statue by Joel T. Hart, Kentucky’s noted sculptor, stood in the Fayette county courthouse for some years until it was destroyed when the building burned on May 14, 1897.  Hart was born on Feb. 11, 1810, in Clark county.  As a young man he worked as an itinerant stone mason in Clark and Bourbon counties.  When about 21 he came to Lexington and secured employment in Pruden’s “marble yard,” where he went to work cutting tombstones and monuments.  Soon thereafter he was modeling a bust of Cassius M. Clay.  In spite of Hart’s lack of formal training, he make the transition from stonecutting to modelng with remarkable ease.  After achieving considerable success in this country, he sailed for Italy in 1849 and set up his studio in Florence.  Among Hart’s best-known works are several busts of famous Kentuckians and three full-length statues of Henry Clay.  For over 15 years he labored on “The Triumphant of Chastity,” or as he later named it, “Woman Triumphant,” but at the time of his death in 1877, it was not finished.  His assistant, George H. Saul, completed the work.  In the spring of 1884, ladies of the Hart Memorial Association of Lexington purchased this statue for $5,000 from Tiffany and Company of New York, and placed it in the courthouse.  Hart died in Florence, Italy, and his remains were later brought to the Frankfort (Ky.) cemetery and interred with appropriate ceremonies, over his grave the Legislature erected a handsome monument.  


            ***Sunday Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 22, 1959***


Joel T. Hart Collection On Display


FRANKFORT, Ky., Nov. 21 (Special) -- The Kentucky Historical Society has on Display in the Old Capitol here the best Joel T. Hart collection in the world.

Hart was Kentucky’s outstanding sculptor.

Shortly after his birth in 1810 near Winchester, his father, a large landowner, met financial reverse.  As a consequence, young Hart, forced to earn his living, had only a few months of formal education.  He worked as a stone mason, helping build stone walls and chimneys.  At 21, he went to work at Pruden’s Marble Yard in Lexington and began a life-time study of sculpture.

By 1849 he had learned the art well enough to establish a studio in Florence, Italy, near the old masters.  There he completed his masterpiece, “Woman Triumphant,” a life-size female nude, based on composite features of 150 model sitting over a period of 25 years.  This work was destroyed by fire.

Hart never married.  It is related that he fell in love with Mary Smithers of Lexington when he was a common laborer.  Perhaps he never was financially able to ask for her hand or maybe she was in love with someone else.  Among her intimate effects was a poem by Hart, “To Mary on Parting.”

Hart died at Florence in 1877 and was buried there near his friend, English poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  He was re-interred in the Frankfort Cemetery in June, 1887, after the Kentucky Legislature appropriated money to have his remains moved from Florence.

As the years passed, the memories of Joel T. Hart and his wonderful sculptures were slowly forgotten.  Most today, do not know what he contributed to the world, nor anything about his accomplishments.  Through the years, there have been various articles in area newspapers making reference to Mr. Hart.  These, along with several books that have been printed about the sculptor, has kept his fame alive.  Joel Hart, being the modest person he was, probably said it the best.  I refer to the what the Hon. W. M. Beckner said in his memorial address at the re-interment program at Frankfort, 1887.  When asked by Mr. Horton of North Middletown as to why Joel Hart hid his initials from view, he replied, “Ah! Horton, you do not look far enough ahead.  These engravings are not for the eye of the present generation.  If I succeed as a sculptor, I want posterity to find a pleasure in discovering that this was no ordinary man.”  I believe that posterity has found its pleasure.

Joel T. Hart birthplace.  This house is built on a portion of the original Hart house foundation.

Kentucky Historical Marker #731, Clark County, Kentucky.  (Death date should read 1877.)

Pointing Machine

Woman Triumphant

Dedicated April 12, 1860, Richmond, Virginia

Dedicated May 30, 1867, Louisville, Kentucky, Jefferson County Courthouse

Joel Hart made three life size sculptures of Henry Clay, the two shown above, and a third in bronze for the City of New Orleans.  The Richmond and New Orleans sculptures were both dedicated the same day, April 12, 1860, in honor of the "Great Commoner of the West."  Hart, during his only return to the United States, attended the dedication ceremonies at New Orleans on Canal Street.  The sculpture has since been moved to Lafeyette Square.  The Richmond sculpture originally stood just northeast of the Bell Tower.  In 1930, it was removed and placed in the old hall of the House of Delegates in the State Capitol.  The Louisville sculpture still remains in the Jefferson County Courthouse where it was originally placed.

NOTE:  Joel Hart made these tombstones in Italy, brought them with him, and placed them at his parents' graves while visiting the US in 1860.

Remainder of grave marker of Josiah Hart, aged 81 years (1764 - 1845)

Grave marker of Judith Hart, Our Mother, died Aug 2, 1825, aged 53 years (1772 - 1825).

Kentucky Historical Marker #710, Clark County, Kentucky

English Cemetery
Florence, Italy

Frankfort Cemetery
Frankfort, Kentucky



1.  The Work Shall Praise the Master, A Memorial to Joel T. Hart, The Kentucky Sculptor from the Women of the Bluegrass, Issa Desha Breckinridge and Mary Desha, Press of Robert Clarke & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1884. 

2.  Clark County Chronicles, Conducted and Collaborated by the Clark County Historical Society,  Winchester Sun, October 18, 1923.

3.  Joel T. Hart - Kentucky Sculptor by J. Winston Coleman, Jr., Winburn Press - Lexington, KY,1962.

4.  Joel Tanner Hart, American Sculptor, David B. Dearinger, A master’s thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Liberal Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, The City University of New York, 1984. 

5.  Report of the Memorial Services on the Re-Interment of the Remains of Joel T. Hart, John D. Woods, Public Printer and Binder, Capitol Office, Frankfort, Ky. 1887. 

6.  Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, passed at the Regular Session of the General Assembly, which was begun and held in the City of Frankfort on Monday, the thirty-first day of December, Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-three, Volume 1, Property of the State of Kentucky, Frankfort, Ky., Printed at the Kentucky Yeoman Office.  S. I. M. Major, Public Printer, 1884, Chapter 1006. 

7.  Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, passed at the Regular session of the General Assembly, which was begun and held in the city of Frankfort, on Thursday, the thirty-first day of December, Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-five, Volume 1.  Property of the State of Kentucky, Frankfort, Ky., Capital Office, John D. Woods, Public Printer and Binder, 1886, Resolution 56. 

8.  Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, passed at the Regular Session of the General Assembly, which was begun and held on Tuesday, the second day of January, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four.  Property of the State of Kentucky, Frankfort, Ky., printed by the Capital Printing Co., 1894. 

9.  The Kentucky Leader, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

10.  The Kentucky Progress Magazine, September 4, 1931, Pages 31, 47. 

11.  Executive Journal of J. Proctor Knott, Governor of Kentucky, Frankfort, Kentucky, September 4th, 1883. 

12.  Executive Journal, No. 2, J. Proctor Knott, Governor of Kentucky, Frankfort, Kentucky, Beginning July 1, 1886.

13.  English Cemetery, Florence, Italy, CD, Julia Bolton Holloway, Aureo Anello Association for the Library and Cemetery, Florence Italy. 

14.  The Lexington Daily Press, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

15.  The Lexington Herald, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

16.  The Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

17.  The Lexington Leader, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

18.  The Lexington Morning Transcript, Lexington, Kentucky -- various dates. 

19.  The Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky -- various dates. 

20.  Joel T. Hart Scrapbook by Strother D. Mitchell, [photostatic copy by P. Warren in 1950], 1877 - 1947. 

21.  Muldoon Monument Company Records, Louisville, Ky, volume 12, p. 67. 

22.  Richmond on the James, Postcard History Series, Louis H. Manarin, Arcadia Publishing, an imprint of Tempus Publishing, Inc., Charleston, SC  29401. 

23.  Roadside History A Guide to Kentucky Highway Markers, Dianne Wells, Compiler, Edited by Melba Porter Hay & Thomas H. Appleton, Jr., The Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky, 2002. 

24.  The Winchester Sun, Winchester, Kentucky -- various dates.


Kathleen Lawrence of George Washington University speaks on Florence and William Wetmore Story's family.

'The Significance of Florence in the Life of William Wetmore Story and his Family'
Kathleen Lawrence, George Washington University. Abstract.

Scholars usually associate nineteenth-century American expatriate sculptor and litterateur William Wetmore Story with Rome where he lived with wife Emelyn, daughter Edith, and sons Waldo and Julian in the Palazzo Barberini from 1856 until his death in 1895, and where he maintained an active studio at 9, Via San Martino. What is less well-known is that Story and his family developed an intimate tie to Florence, first through their close friendship with Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, but later even more significantly through daughter Edith Story’s marriage to Florentine Simone Peruzzi in 1875 and sons Waldo and Julian’s art life in the Florentine circle of painter Frank Duveneck in the 1880’s. Recently discovered unpublished documents and rare photographs in the possession of Story descendants reveal the frequency of the Story visits to Florence and to the Peruzzi family summer villas “Il Lago” in Vallombrosa and “I Busani” in Rufina, in the hills of Florence. Rare photographs also establish the influence of Florentine Renaissance masters Desiderio da Settignano, Antonio Rossellino, and Mino da Fiesole on the sculpture of Waldo Story, an inspiration no doubt imbibed during son Waldo’s many visits to Florence. Last but not least, son Julian established his painter’s studio in his own villa “Torre di Campiglioni” in Pelago where he lived and entertained international nobility with first wife and famous opera singer Emma Eames and later with second wife Philadelphia socialite Elaine Sartori from the 1890’s until his death in 1917.

With Edith’s marriage to Simone Peruzzi, the Storys formed a bond not only to Florence and the ancient Peruzzi family but also to the Medici, whose title “de Medici” was conferred on the Peruzzis by King Umberto and Queen Margherita in recognition of Simone’s service to the King. Edith’s serene Medici villas in Vallombrosa, Antella,  and Rufino drew the family northward every summer to join her, Simone, and sons Bindo, named for a Renaissance Peruzzi ancestor, Ridolfo, named for another ancestor, and daughter Maria Cressida. William Wetmore Story’s enchantment with Vallombrosa culminated in his little volume on the beloved spot where he died in Edith’s arms in 1895. What is not known is that Edith’s son Bindo, the glamorous godson of King Umberto, died tragically by suicide after a lengthy court marshal trial where it was alleged that he had had an affair with another young soldier in the King’s army. His funeral on April 4, 1907 was attended by the nobility of Florence, including Counts Rucellai and Corsini and Marquises Zaccaria  and Antinori. Bindo was buried in the Peruzzi/Medici chapel at Rufina. During Bindo’s scandal, only the loyal Pen Browning stood by Edith and continued to visit the family palazzo at 28, Via Maggio. Pen bought Edith’s other villa at Antella in 1901 to rescue her financially to be near her.

Meanwhile, young sculptor Waldo Story developed his own significant relationship to Florence whose renaissance masters became his main influences as he sought to break away from his father’s neoclassicism. Masters Desiderio da Settignano, Antonio Rossellino, and Mino da Fiesole inspired Waldo with their delicacy and refinement and introduced him to the genre of the portrait bas relief, which he began to use for portraits of wealthy society figures in England and America. In addition, Waldo re-invented Desiderio’s tabernacle wall installations to celebrate the lives of distinguished English war heroes in his Portal Monument in Winchester Cathedral. Perhaps most important, Waldo used Medici iconography on his last commission, the exquisite bronze doors of J. P. Morgan’s library in Manhattan, linking Morgan to the great banking families of Florence, and his own style to that of the great Ghiberti.

Julian Story’s life narrative also moved to Florence after his education at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he used the quiet and beauty of Florence and Vallombrosa first as a training ground with Duveneck and his bride Lizzie Boott and later as a studio and place of inspiration and socialization. Thus in the second generation of the Story family, the saga centers not so much on Rome but on Florence whose beauty and historical significance changed forever the lives of this important American expatriate family and the course of American art.

Elise Madeleine Ciregna, of the University of Delaware and Curator of Forest Hills Cemetery, again speaks on William Wetmore

A Storied Life: Marble Fauns, Angels, and Cemeteries: William Wetmore Story and Friends in Italy
Elise Madeleine Ciregna, University of Delaware/ Forest Hills Cemetery. Abstract.

The development of American sculpture in the nineteenth century owed a great debt to Italy and that country’s rich artistic heritage.  Horatio Greenough, often called “America’s first sculptor” since he was the first American to pursue sculpture exclusively as his career, settled in Florence in the 1830s, to train with Lorenzo Bartolini of the Accademia di Belle Arti, and where Greenough would spend most of the rest of his life.  In Florence Greenough became part of the artistic and literary circles that included Samuel F.B. Morse and Thomas Cole.  Aspiring American sculptors for the next two generations would follow Greenough’s example, leaving their native country to train and work in Italy, and to become members of the expatriate artistic community.

One of the greatest lights of that community was the sculptor William Wetmore Story.  The son of eminent American jurist Joseph Story, William Wetmore Story dutifully, if reluctantly, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer.  But his father’s sudden death in 1845 gave the younger Story an opportunity to follow his artistic leanings.  Responding to Mount Auburn Cemetery’s (Cambridge, Massachusetts) search for a sculptor capable of producing a worthy monument to Joseph Story, William Wetmore Story, without any professional experience but with all the right social connections, gained the prestigious commission.  Incredibly, recognizing that the aspiring young sculptor would have to actually first learn his craft, the Mount Auburn Committee agreed that Story would close his law practice, move to Italy, and train and work for nearly ten years before expecting a finished product.  The Committee was pleased with the statue, delivered in 1854.  Thus the career of one of America’s greatest nineteenth century sculptors and one of its most famous expatriates was launched.[1]

Story’s life and career, once based in Italy, did, indeed, become the stuff of fiction.  Story’s close friend Nathaniel Hawthorne—a writer who was enamored of Italy and an admirer of stonecutters and sculptors—immortalized Story as the character of Kenyon, the sculptor, in his novel “The Marble Faun.”  Story became one of the nineteenth century’s most prolific and successful American sculptors.  He lived in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, which was a vibrant center of artistic and intellectual exchange with the many other artists and writers Story knew, among them Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Thomas Crawford, Randolph Rogers, and James Russell Lowell.  Many of Story’s most celebrated works were inspired by classical mythology and by figures of the “Antique” world, for example his celebrated statues of Cleopatra and Sappho, regarded as models not only of exquisite workmanship, but as examples of an admirable archaeological attention to authentic detail.

As Story’s first professional sculpture was a tribute to a close family member and destined for placement in a cemetery, it seems fitting that his final major work was also an important cemetery sculpture: The Angel of Grief, created in 1893 for his wife Emelyn’s gravesite in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, and under which Story himself was laid to rest in 1895.  The Angel of Grief has proven to be an enduring and resonant work; at least seven copies of it exist in cemeteries across America and elsewhere. 

Henry James, an acquaintance of Story’s, would later write a “biography” of William Wetmore Story and his friends.  James found Story’s celebrated friends more compelling than Story himself, but in recent years Story has been the subject of critical reevaluation, most notably in the work of art historian Jan Seidler’s as yet unpublished dissertation.[2]

This paper looks at the career of William Wetmore Story and his life in Italy, inextricably linked to the romance of white marble and cemeteries, Italy’s tradition of sculpture and history, and to the artistic and literary expatriates Story counted as friends.  William Wetmore Story, regarded as one of nineteenth century America’s greatest sculptors and yet largely ignored after his death, will be restored to his important position within the context of nineteenth century Italy and the artistic community.

[1] Elise Madeleine Ciregna, “Museum in the Garden:  Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Development of American Sculpture, 1825-1875.”  Master’s Thesis, Harvard University, 2002.  Chapter 7 is a critical look at William Wetmore Story.  

[2] Jan M. Seidler, “A Critical Reappraisal of the Career of William Wetmore Story (1819-1895), American Sculptor and Man of Letters.”  Dissertation, Boston University, 1985.


Go to Introduction

         I. Abolitionists in the 'English' Cemetery
         II. Hiram Powers, Kate Field, Amasa Hewins
         III. Joel Tanner Hart
         IV. William Wetmore Story
         V. Collectors and Visitors

With the Sponsorship of the Comune di Firenze, the United States Consulate General in Florence, Syracuse University in Florence, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the Lyceum Club of Florence, the Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Svizzera of Florence, and the Aureo Anello Associazione Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei' e Amici del Cimitero 'degli Inglesi'

Il giglio di Firenze   [Immagine] - Quadro
            di Teresa Poluzzi per il Centenario    

: Dante vivo || White Silence

To donate to the restoration by Roma of Florence's formerly abandoned English Cemetery and to its Library click on our Aureo Anello Associazione's PayPal button: