COLLECTION: Decorative Sculpture

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The Preacher

ca. 1870
Origin: America, Indiana (probably)
Overall: 21 x 7 1/2 x 7 1/4in. (53.3 x 19.1 x 18.4cm)
Butternut and white pine (Body and head = butternut; arms and book = white pine; woods microscopically identified 7/16/1975)
From the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Collection; Gift of David Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1931.701.5
3/4 length figure whittled fron one block of wood, with arms and Bible added separately. Wood never painted, although perhaps waxed or varnished at one time. Figure stands with head raised piously towards the sky, supporting Bible with disproportionately small hands. He wears a long coat, a clerical collar, and his chin is cleft, his eyes stare upwards and his jaw firmly set. There is no evidence the figure ever had feet. Base not original. Artist unidentified.
Label:Mrs. Rockefeller purchased this carving from art dealer Edith Gregor Halpert in the early 1930s. When Halpert acquired the piece, it was believed to be a portrait of the charismatic 19th-century Congregationalist clergyman Henry Ward Beecher. It has since been identified as a stylized version of a famous 19th-century German statue of the famed 16th-century theologian Martin Luther. The statue was so popular that soon after it was erected in 1868, small metal replicas were made as souvenirs, one of which likely served as inspiration for this carving. The head and body of the Preacher are carved from one piece of wood while the arms, hands, and books are separate pieces attached by nails and glue. The unidentified maker has created a piece that concisely conveys the compelling image of a man in communion with his maker.
Provenance:Corbin family member, Centerville, Ind.; unidentified dealer; Jay Leyda; purchased by Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from Halpert by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1931; given to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, by Rockefeller in 1939; transferred from the MoMA to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, in 1949; purchased from the Metropolitan Museum of Art by David Rockefeller and given by him to CWF in 1955.