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Isaiah Thomas Sculptures

Isaiah Thomas Sculpture


ISAIAH THOMAS (1749-1831), 1859
Benjamin Kinney (1821-1888)
plaster, black paint
25 (h) (63.50)
incised on right side: 'Hon. ISAIAH THOMAS/Founder & first President/of the/American Antiquarian Society/By/B. H. Kinney/1859.'
Gift of Peter Mack Brown, 1975
Hewes #129

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ISAIAH THOMAS (1749-1831), 1859
Benjamin Kinney (1821-1888)
24 1/2 (h) (62.23)
inscribed on verso: 'by B. H. KINNEY/1859'
Commissioned by the American Antiquarian Society, 1859
Weis #122
Hewes #130

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Isaiah Thomas Sculpture

In May 1859, Benjamin Kinney, a sculptor working in Worcester, Massachusetts, completed a plaster bust of Isaiah Thomas.(1) Kinney exhibited the plaster cast in his studio, and the local newspaper reported, 'It is with no ordinary degree of satisfaction that we are enabled to announce another highly successful effort in sculpture, by our townsman B. F. Kinney. We have already noted the fact that he was engaged on a bust of the late Isaiah Thomas. The original model of it having been completed, he has made a cast from it, which, since it was finished, is pronounced by good judges the most successful of his works; and this is no small praise. So perfect is the likeness that it was instantly recognized by one of our elderly citizens . . . As a work of art, the bust is creditable to Mr. Kinney's talent and skill - as a faithful representation of [Thomas], it is invaluable.'(2)

The public success of this plaster bust, which acquired a coat of black paint sometime after it was completed, led to a second commission for the same composition, this time in marble. Isaac Davis, a member of the American Antiquarian Society who had patronized Kinney earlier, commissioned the marble bust for the Society in June 1859, while the plaster bust remained in the possession of the artist. In 1975 it appeared in a private collection in Washington, D.C., and was offered to the Society by the owner. Accepting the offer, the director of the American Antiquarian Society wrote, '[W]e are extremely happy to have this cast to add to our collections . . .. To our way of thinking the plaster cast is more pleasing in that its detail is somewhat finer than the marble rendition, which we have had since 1859.'(3)

1)   Massachusetts Spy, May 25, 1859, p. 2. For inspiration, Kinney may have visited Antiquarian Hall to study the American Antiquarian Society's portrait of Thomas by Ethan Allen Greenwood.

2)   Massachusetts Spy, June 1, 1859, p. 2.

3)   Marcus A. McCorison to Peter Mack Brown, December 12, 1975, American Antiquarian Society Archives.

Isaiah Thomas Sculpture Isaiah Thomas Sculpture

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