Erastus Dow Palmer


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(b Pompey, nr. Syracuse, NY, 2 Apr. 1817; d Albany, NY, 4 Mar. 1904).

American sculptor. Self-taught, he rarely left Albany in his native New York State, and he was the most successful American sculptor of his period to work in the USA rather than in Europe. He began with cameo portraits and had a flourishing business with portrait busts and bas-reliefs on religious subjects, but his most celebrated work, now as in his own day, is the White Captive (1858, Met. Mus., New York). Inspired by Powers's Greek Slave, it shows a naked young girl who has been captured by Red Indians and is sustained by her Christianity—this accompanying storyline undoubtedly contributed to its popularity. The statue is fresher in observation than Powers's Greek Slave, for although the marble surfaces are impeccably smooth, the chubby proportions of the figure are unidealized and the strikingly characterized head is a portrait of Palmer's daughter. From the 1860s he worked increasingly in bronze.

Subjects: Art.

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