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Overall: 56 x 18 1/2 x 15 in. ( 142.2 x 47 x 38.1 cm )
Figure holding sheaf of corn under proper left arm.
Gift of The New-York Gallery of the Fine Arts
During his early years in Rome, the American sculptor Henry Kirke Brown modeled this large marble for an American patron, E.P. Prentice. His subject is taken from the biblical account of the Moabite Ruth, a young widow who faithfully remains with her Israelite mother-in-law and is rewarded for her virtue and fidelity with a new husband, Boaz. Ruth was such a popular subject among mid-nineteenth century sculptors that one contemporary writer noted an epidemic of "Ruth fever."
Brown depicted her at the moment when she is addressed by Boaz while gleaning in his field. A beautiful maiden in classicized drapery, one hand holds her garment over her bosom in a gesture of modesty, and the other secures a sheaf of wheat. The poet and editor William Cullen Bryant recalled that Brown quoted the following lines from Keats' Song of the Nightingale in relation to the subject:
"Perchance the self-same song hath found a path
To the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home
She stood in tears amid the alien corn."
Brown returned to the United States in 1846. Ruth was part of a group of his works exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1849, and no doubt helped secure his election as an Academician two years later. The sculpture was purchased by Miss Eliza Hicks and presented to the New-York Gallery of the Fine Arts by 1848, which became one of the core collections of the N-YHS ten years later.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
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