Morning Star, 1856
Gift of Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin 42.299
(October 11, 2013 – February 9, 2014)
Morning Star combines the mythological and astrological identities of Venus and personifies love, beauty, and fertility. Gowned in clinging drapery, the goddess rises from the sea and lifts one arm to shield her eyes from the sun. The star on her forehead is emblematic of the planet Venus, which shines brightest at daybreak and sunset.
Crawford was the first American sculptor to settle permanently in Rome, where he studied antique and live models. The majority of his sculptures, whether private commissions or public monuments, were intended for American audiences; this included Morning Star, which was owned by the coal, iron, and banking investor Adrian Georg Iselin.
Thomas Crawford brought a block of marble to life, beginning with a model made as a map for use throughout the carving process. Dimensions and scale were transferred to the stone using measuring instruments. Then, with masterly blows of mallet to chisel, stone was removed to release the figure inside. Chisels have been the same for hundreds of years: point chisel for form, toothed chisel for shaping, flat chisel and rasp for finishing.
With a conscious play of light and dark, Crawford turned stone into something fluid. The lift of the figure’s fingers and the drapery that surrounds her head and defines her body add to this lightness, as if she were moving.
Tracy Mahaffey, stone carver