Clasped Hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer American
Harriet Hosmer, an expatriate artist living in Rome, was one of the first American women sculptors to achieve an international reputation. Shortly after meeting the English poets Robert (1812-1889) and Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861) Browning in 1853, she suggested making a cast of the couple’s interlocked right hands. Elizabeth Browning consented, provided Hosmer complete the process herself rather than delegate it to studio assistants. The result is an intimate expression of the love between the Brownings, who had eloped to Italy seven years earlier, and of the warm friendship they shared with Hosmer. The identity of each clasped hand is discernible by the differences in size as well as by the treatment of the cuff at each wrist. Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne characterized the sculpture, which was cast in both plaster and bronze, as "symbolizing the individuality and heroic union of two high, poetic lives!"