The Water Carrier
The Water Carrier, ca. 1880
40.5 x 22.9 x 27.9 cm (15 15/16 x 9 x 11 inches)
Bequest of Miss Ellen D. Sharpe 54.147.23
(February 3 –July 8, 2012)
This statuette of a young water vendor was one of Vincenzo Gemito’s most acclaimed and best-selling works, available from the artist’s bronze foundry in Naples either nude (as seen here) or wearing a loincloth. Breaking with the tradition of idealized marble sculpture dominant from the time of Antonio Canova and still practiced by contemporaries like Randolph Rogers, Gemito presents an Italian street urchin in an unconventional pose, humanized by his cheeky grin and dynamic, engaging gesture. The statue’s nudity blurs lines between the past and the present, allowing viewers to interpret him as a figure from ancient Roman history or as an impoverished citizen of modern-day Naples. Gemito himself had grown up an orphan on the streets, eventually receiving training in sculptural modeling. Familiarity with this world may account for his sympathetic portrayal of the beggar child. The size of this piece and its basin pedestal also suggest a relation between contemporary sculpture and small fountain bronzes excavated from ancient Pompeii.
European Paintings and Sculpture, ca. 1770 - 1937
Edited BySlimmon, Ann H, and Judith A. Singsen, eds.
Contributions byRosenfeld, Daniel, et al
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1991
TypeMonographs and Collections