William Rumney (American, 18371927)
Pine, painted; 78 x 29 x 19 in. (198.1 x 73.7 x 48.3 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund, The J. M. Kaplan Fund, Inc. and Mrs. Frederick A. Stoughton Gifts, Harris Brisbane Dick and Louis V. Bell Funds, 1978 (1978.57)
Around 1860, Daniel Dennis Kelly, a Boston shipbuilder, commissioned his most talented figurehead maker, William Rumney, to carve this ambitious monumental sculpture of Andrew Jackson (17671845) for the front of his home in east Boston. Kelly was probably familiar with the two Jackson figureheads that had adorned the frigate Constitution (whose name is emblazoned on the marble base) during Jackson's presidency. During this period when the Union was threatened, Kelly may have commissioned this sculpture to remind people of Jackson's most famous statement: "Our Federal Union. It must be preserved." Although Rumney usually carved his figureheads from life models, he based this sculpture on a painting of Jackson by Ralph E. W. Earl (1832; private collection). Rumney has portrayed Jackson dressed in contemporary riding clothes, holding a broad-brimmed hat and cane in his right hand and a glove in his left. The sculptor has modeled the surface in broad planes, deemphasizing anatomical structure and stressing superficial textural aspects such as wavy hair and facial wrinkles. This is a heroic work in the tradition of folk carvings of figureheads, carousels, and stone figures from the last half of the nineteenth century.