The Sun Vow

Artist: Hermon Atkins MacNeil (American, Everett, Massachusetts 1866–1947 Queens, New York)

Date: 1899, cast 1919

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: 72 x 32 1/2 x 54 in. (182.9 x 82.6 x 137.2 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1919

Accession Number: 19.126

Description

By the 1890s, sculptural representations of Native American and Western themes had become extremely popular. While living in Chicago in the early 1890s, MacNeil had learned of a rite of passage that captured his imagination: before a boy on the threshold of manhood could be accepted as a warrior, he was required to shoot an arrow directly into the sun. If the chieftain judging the boy’s prowess was so blinded by the sun’s rays that he could not follow the flight of the arrow, it was said to have gone “out of sight,” and the youth had passed the test. MacNeil portrayed the dramatic moment following the arrow’s release, heightening both the visual impact of the composition and the sense of narrative suspense.

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