Category Archives: Historic Portraits

The Ides of March

The Ides of March is almost upon us, and I don’t even know what that means. My friend and I kicked that phrase around the other day and I decided I should do some research.

According to Wikipedia: ” The ides of March (Latin: Idus Martias) is the name of March 15 in the Roman calendar…The Ides of March was a festive day  dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was assassinated in…44 B.C. In William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned to “beware the Ides of March.”

This Roman marble carving of Caesar, which currently resides in the Vatican Museums is a wonderful portrait of  a strong ruler, who it is surprising to note, actually ruled Rome for only 5 years.  A good reproduction of this very piece can be purchased from  companies such as

In 2008, an exciting discovery of a portrait believed to be Julius Caesar,  and sculpted in 46 B.C.,  was dragged up from the Rhone River in France.  This is an aging Caesar, heavier in the face, but with the unmistakable features of the younger man.

I should explore this portrait further.  There is a crudeness to it that makes me question its authenticity.

Beware the Ides of March!!!

Consider the Creche

Boxing Day was yesterday and as I gathered  up the wrapping paper and empty boxes from under the tree I also took time to  leaf  through one of my gifts tucked under there.

What a lovely book, by Matthew Powell, O.P.

It is entitled:

“The Christmas Creche: Treasure  of Faith, Art and Theater.”

I found the variety of styles and materials that the Creche has been crafted out of  quite fascinating.  Consider this primitive, carved stone set above by Irish sculptor Kieran Ford,  inspired by ancient Celtic statues and ruins.

Or….how about this one below, which I couldn’t help but think of as Extreme Creche!   How amazing, right?!!!!  This looks like a painting,  but Click closer…..these are actually hundreds of small figurines  in a 3-dimensional landscape.  This is the “Cuciniello Creche” housed at the Museo di San Martino, Naples, Italy.  According to my book: “this exemplifies the elaborate and extensive Nativities of eighteenth-century Naples.”  I’m beginning to think I was born in the wrong century.

It takes time (and money) to create such wonderful works as these.  I would like to challenge you to consider commissioning your own  personal family creche.

Perhaps you might commission one piece of your creche each year to  build something extraordinary  to pass on to your children.

Just look at this beautiful Christ Child cast in wax and surrounded by a real crest of wheat. I love it! I could create a piece like this for you. Maybe it could bear the face of your very own child.

Don’t hesitate to call and just chat. I am always happy to answer questions and describe all the possibilities.  As we approach yet another New Year, I am even more certain that dreams & faith are what life is made of!

Fragile Flossie

I live near a beautiful cemetery that is edged on three sides by untamed woods.  I decided since it was so lovely this afternoon I would take a walk and search the edges for wild berries.  Along the way I found this striking portrait of Flossie on an oval,  gravestone cameo.  Cemetery Portrait

Dear Flossie, her delicate face, made all the more touching by the damage to her porcelain cameo.  What lovely memorials are these gravestone images.

Though Flossie has been buried now for almost 100 years, there is something about her spirit that continues to shine in this portrait.

As far back as 100 B.C. the Roman Egyptian culture at Fayum was painting grave portraits of distinctive individual persons.  These are not just generic faces, but  portraits  like Flossie’s,  which give us a glimpse into the life of one man, one woman, one child. 348px-Portrait_du_Fayoum_02

In this portrait of a young woman we see unique characterisitcs: the rather large ears, and  a love for jewelry displayed.  We can imagine that in death she has been painted wearing her very favorite earrings.

A portrait bust without a  spark of life is not complete.  This spark is the very essence of what I seek to find, to create,  as a portrait sculptor  working with  their clay material. I will be happy to work with you to create a very special and spirited custom bust.

Portrait statue of Robert Wadlow

Wadlow front viewI visited Alton Illinois yesterday, just down the road from me, to photograph the Robert Wadlow statue.

Perhaps you have heard of this man who is on record as being the tallest man that ever lived.  Weighing in at 490 pounds, and at 8’11” tall it is a wonder to stand next to him! Below is a picture of Robert with his father.

350px-Robert_WadlowAesthetically speaking,  I would like to have seen the statue’s head & neck  sculpted a little broader and the glasses included.  (Please see comments about the glasses below.)  I enjoyed  how the artist has captured the ackward stance of such a large figure.

Next to the Wadlow statue is a bronze replica of an extra large chair made especially for him. It was 95 degrees out so I sat in this chair for only a couple of seconds!wadlow chair 2

“Till we have faces”

As a portrait sculptor,  I suppose it is a bit ironic that some of my favorite pieces of figurative art do not have faces!  The Venus of Willendorf is powerful because her lack of a face points directly to her role as any-woman, earth mother, fecundity personified.

How exciting was the news today that another very early  fertility statuette has been found! Dating back some 35,000 years ago, this may well be the earliest known sculpture that depicts a human.

Yahoo news, May 13, 2009

Yahoo news, May 13, 2009

Where her head would be is an eyelet instead, which suggests it might have been worn as a necklace or amulet. Somehow it’s ok that she doesn’t have a head.

I am  struck yet again, when I ponder these ancient little figurines,  that we are all of us indeed  simply “specks of sand, dust in the wind,” and yet  at the very same time  each profoundly special.  How can we be both? Just ask a portrait sculptor. So individually unique are our faces!

Madonna of the Trail

Madonna of the Trail, Vandalia ILI took a country drive today, to photograph one of my favorite local portraits.   Although it is in the nearby town of Vandalia Illinois,  only a 20 minute drive from home, it is of national significance.

In the 1920’s the Daughters of the American Revolution spearheaded and raised the money for  a large project to highlight the bravery of the Pioneer woman.  Across the terrain  of early America the pioneer mother, traveling by foot and covered wagon, gathered her children round about her skirts,  and settled this big land, along side her hardworking man.

There are 12, ten  foot tall statues of the Madonna of the Trail which were  designed by Arlene B. Nichols Moss, and sculpted by August Leimbach, a sculptor from St. Louis.   They were cast in algonite stone (a casting material which incorporates granite as an aggregate and has a nice rosy hue to it). They were placed along the National Old Trails Highway from Bethesda, Maryland to Upland,  California. This highway was also known as the Cumberland Road.

Personally, I like this statue for its strength of form.  Nothing is weak or half-hearted.  Each element whether the woman’s bonnet, or the hand of the child clutching its mothers skirts, are thick, and strong. The side view of the skirt extended with the  woman’s bold stride, creates a triangular shape which is very grounding.

Having been designed in the 192o’s it certainly bears the formal trends of an Art Deco stylization. For me personally both this formal strength and the message of  bravery of the pioneer traveler,  speaks anew to our own time  of current crisis in America, and indeed across the globe.   It  takes  a special  courage  again to  maintain  a home and to raise a family well,  with so many jobs  being lost  across the land.

The Madonna of the Trail speaks to my own heart  about what is truly essential to live the good life.

Read more about the Madonna of the Trail at Wikipedia: