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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Harriet G. Hosmer

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When the photographs of "Hesper" were placed before him by an artist friend of the Hosmers, he looked at them carefully, and said, "Send the young lady to me, and whatever I know, and can teach her, she shall learn." He gave Miss Hosmer an upstairs room in his studio, and here for seven years she worked with delight, honored and encouraged by her noble teacher. She wrote to her friends: "The dearest wish of my heart is gratified in that I am acknowledged by Gibson as a pupil. He has been resident in Rome thirty-four years, and leads the van. I am greatly in luck. He has just finished the model of the statue of the queen; and as his room is vacant, he permits me to use it, and I am now in his own studio. I have also a little room for work which was formerly occupied by Canova, and perhaps inspiration may be drawn from the walls."

The first work which she copied, to show Gibson whether she had correctness of eye and proper knowledge, was the Venus of Milo. When nearly finished, the iron which supported the clay snapped, and the figure lay spoiled upon the floor. She did not shrink nor cry, but immediately went to work cheerfully to shape it over again. This conduct Mr. Gibson greatly admired, and made up his mind to assist her all he could.

After this she copied the "Cupid" of Praxitiles and Tasso from the British Museum. Her first original work was Daphne, the beautiful girl whom Apollo loved, and who, rather than accept his addresses, was changed into laurel by the gods. Apollo crowned his head with laurel, and made the flower sacred to himself forever.

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Next, Miss Hosmer produced "Medusa," famed for her beautiful hair, which Minerva turned into serpents because Neptune loved her. According to Grecian mythology, Perseus made himself immortal by conquering Medusa, whose head he cut off, and the blood dripping from it filled Africa with snakes. Miss Hosmer represents the beautiful maiden, when she finds, with horror, that her hair is turning into serpents.

Needing a real snake for her work, Miss Hosmer sent a man into the suburbs to bring her one alive. When it was obtained, she chloroformed it till she had made a cast, keeping it in plaster for three hours and a half. Then, instead of killing it, like a true-hearted woman, as she is, she sent it back into the country, glad to regain its liberty.

"Daphne" and "Medusa" were both exhibited in Boston the following year, 1853, and were much praised. Mr. Gibson said: "The power of imitating the roundness and softness of flesh, he had never seen surpassed." Rauch, the great Prussian, whose mausoleum at Charlottenburg of the beautiful queen Louise can never be forgotten, gave Miss Hosmer high praise.

Two years later she completed "Oenone," made for Mr. Crow of St. Louis. It is the full-length figure of the beautiful nymph of Mount Ida. The story is a familiar one. Before the birth of Paris, the son of Priam, it was foretold that he by his imprudence should cause the destruction of Troy. His father gave orders for him to be put to death, but possibly through the fondness of his mother, he was spared, and carried to Mount Ida, where he was brought up by the shepherds, and finally married Oenone. In time he became known to his family, who forgot the prophecy and cordially received him. For a decision in favor of Venus he was promised the most beautiful woman in the world for his wife. Forgetting Oenone, he fell in love with the beautiful Helen, already the wife of Menelaus, and persuaded her to fly with him to Troy, to his father's court. War resulted. When he found himself dying of his wounds, he fled to Oenone for help, but died just as he came into her presence. She bathed the body with her tears, and stabbed herself to the heart, a very foolish act for so faithless a man. Miss Hosmer represents her as a beautiful shepherdess, bowed with grief from her desertion.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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