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Lorraine and Owen Voight, Behind the Scenes

Lorraine and Owen Voight

“Portrait of Lorraine and Owen Voight as Children,” marble, Vincenzo Miserendino, 1925.

The Artist

Vincenzo Miserendino (1875-1943) was an Italian-American artist who had studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome before immigrating to New York City in 1890. Miserendino came to New York and made a career as a portraitist of presidents and national heroes. He showed his work at the New York Academy of Design and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. He has an extensive oeuvre, including portraits of Emerson, Daniel Froham, Willy Progany, Leslie M. Shaw, J. L. Holftrup. Edward F. Albee, Batelo Rubino, and was well known for his images of Theodore Roosevelt. In 1922 Miserendino created a larger-than-life terracotta sculpture of Roosevelt sitting on a rock in safari hunting attire, with a giant lion head beside his feet. In addition to Roosevelt as Hunter, he also made two other Roosevelt portraits (Oklahoma City, OK, 1907) and  (A. B. Davis Middle School, Mount Vernon, New York, 1923), one statue of his relative Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y., 1934), and one of Franklin Roosevelt’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt (Hyde Park, N.Y., 1934). In 1925 he created a Columbus monument in the city park in Reading, Pennsylvania for the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage. This monument is eight feet tall, made from marble and bronze, and shows Columbus on a marble pedestal. He also made two sculptures of Adolph S. Ochs, owner of the New York Times at the end of the nineteenth one in bronze and marble (Long Island City, N.Y. 1933), and the other in bronze and wood (Oglethorpe, GA, 1933). In 1930 he sculpted a public monument of Thomas Mott Osborne, a prison reform leader, from bronze and granite for the department of parks and recreation in Auburn, N.Y. Miserendino was well enough known in his own day to be mentioned in the book Peregrina: Love and Death in Mexico.

 

Voight Photo

Vincenzo Miserendino sculpting Owen Voight in his studio

The Researcher

Elizabeth Marshall majored in art history at James Madison University and graduated in xxx. She wrote the following catalog entry for the City of Rome Exhibition in fall 2009:

 “Portrait of Lorraine and Owen Voight as Children,” marble, Vincenzo Miserendino, 1925. (Madison Art Collection 2007.6.1)

                This sculpture is a traditional, academic-style bust portrait of the Voigt children, Lorraine (age six) and her younger brother Owen (age two/three).[1] Lorraine is calmly resting her head on Owen’s head, and lightly leaning against him, a subtle movement expressing their sibling relationship. One modern aspect is the unfinished rocky appearance to its base. Although the Voigt Children is finished work, the artist left the base intentionally rough. The idea of allowing a material, such a marble, to appear with its natural grain became accepted in the later nineteenth century.[2] Vincenzo Miserendino (1875-1943) was an Italian-American artist who had studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome before immigrating to New York City in 1890. Owen Voigt, who lived in Harrisonburg in his later years, bequeathed the sculpture to the Madison Art Collection.[3]

                Comparable bust portraits of children are found from the mid-fifteenth to the early twentieth century. In earlier periods, the expressions are reserved; the children appear calm and happy, but not overly emotional. The Florentine fifteenth century sculptor Desiderio da Settigano, for instance, portrayed Christ as a serious young child.[4] In the eighteenth century, Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpted his daughter, Sabine Houdon, with a more fleeting, laughing expression.[5] Houdon looked back to classical themes and studied classical sculpture.[6] A late nineteenth century Italian artist, Alfonso Mazzucchelli, sculpted a Mother and Child in 1890, which can be compared to Miserendino’s style.[7] The expression and movement in Mother and Child are more energetic and expressive; both the mother and son’s mouths are open as if speaking.  Gaston Lachaise is an early twentieth century parallel, an émigré from France around 1900. Although Lachaise is most commonly known for his nude female sculptures, he did many portraits throughout his career. Like Miserendino, Lachaise studied traditional classical sculpture before moving to America. When Lachaise met his wife Isabel he was inspired to create his more modern, avant-garde female nudes.[8] Instead, Miserendino did not stray far from the classical sculptural style he learned in Rome.

                Vincenzo Miserendino came to New York and made a career as a portraitist of presidents and national heroes. He showed his work at the New York Academy of Design and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which helped give him an audience.[9] He has an extensive oeuvre, including portraits of Emerson, Daniel Froham, Willy Progany, Leslie M. Shaw, J. L. Holftrup. Edward F. Albee, Batelo Rubino, and was well known for his images of Theodore Roosevelt.[10] In 1922 Miserendino created a larger-than-life terracotta sculpture of Roosevelt sitting on a rock in safari hunting attire, with a giant lion head beside his feet. Photographs show Miserendino working on this sculpture; He can be seen climbing up on a stool to work on Roosevelt’s neck.[11] In addition to Roosevelt as Hunter, he also made two other Roosevelt portraits (Oklahoma City, OK, 1907) and  (A. B. Davis Middle School, Mount Vernon, New York, 1923), one statue of his relative Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y., 1934), and one of Franklin Roosevelt’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt (Hyde Park, N.Y., 1934).[12] In 1925 he created a Columbus monument in the city park in Reading, Pennsylvania for the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage. This monument is eight feet tall, made from marble and bronze, and shows Columbus on a marble pedestal.[13] The United Italian Societies of Reading and Barks County donated this work.[14] Miserendino also made two sculptures of Adolph S. Ochs, owner of the New York Times at the end of the nineteenth century,[15] one in bronze and marble (Long Island City, N.Y. 1933), and the other in bronze and wood (Oglethorpe, GA, 1933.[16] In 1930 he sculpted a public monument of Thomas Mott Osborne, a prison reform leader, from bronze and granite for the department of parks and recreation in Auburn, N.Y.[17] Miserendino was well enough known in his own day to be mentioned in the book Peregrina: Love and Death in Mexico.[18] It appears that public sculptures were typical for Miserendino’s work, and his traditional style worked well for this genre. Classical realistic art was something that more people in the general public could understand and appreciate, whereas avant-garde art often confused the average American in the early twentieth century, as we know from the negative public reaction to Cubist works in the New York Armory Show in 1913. (Elizabeth Marshall)



[1] “Letter to Owen Voigt,” Madison Art Collection, Accession File.

[2] Penelope Curtis, Sculpture 1900-1945, Oxford History of Art. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 73, 83.

[3] Voigt is recorded as a member in the Elks Club Newsletter, September 2008. http://www.elkslodge450.com/SeptOct2008Newsletter.pdf (accessed November 1, 2009)

[4] National Gallery of Art, "Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century." http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/itasculp/itasculp-main1.html (accessed November 13, 2009).

[5]http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/european_sculpture_and_decorative_arts/sabine_houdon_jean_antoine_houdon/ (accessed October 25, 2009).

[6] Guilhem Scherf. "Oxford Art Online" http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/ (accessed November 15, 2009).

[7] "Representations of Human Beings,." http://www.artfinding.com/Artwork/Representaciones-humanas/Alfonso-Mazzucchelli/A-Mother-and-Child-Carrara-Marble-Bust/2763.html  (accessed November 1, 2009).

[8] Carolyn K. Carr & Margaret  C. S. Christman. Gaston Lachaise Portrait Sculpture, (Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985,. 3.

[9] "Vincenzo "Vincent" Miserendino." http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17619985 (accessed September 16, 2009). Since the  online publication of the exhibit, Vincenzo Miserendino’s grandson has contacted the university with more information.

[10] Mary Siegrist, "Biographical Sketch of Vincenzo Miserendino," (1947), Madison Art Collection Files.

[11] Vincenzo Miserendino, "Art in Its Making and the Law of Success." (1923),  Madison Art Collection Files.

[12] Smithsonian American Art Museum, "Art Inventories Catalog." 2001-2004.http://siris-artinventories.si.edu/ipac20/ (accessed November 17, 2009).

[13] Rene van der Krogt. "Columbus Monument Pages." August 7, 2004. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.vanderkrogt.net/statues/Foto/us/uspa17- (accessed November 15, 2009).

[14] The National Italian American Foundation,"Tributes to Christopher Columbus in the United States," http://www.niaf.org/research/report_columbus.asp  (accessed October 25, 2009).

[15] Thomas C. Leonard. "New York Times" Dictionary of American History, VI (2003), 89-91 (accessed  November 18, 2009).

[16] Smithsonian American Art Museum artist files online (accessed November 18, 2009).

[17] "Thomas Mott Osborne," February 9, 2009. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33855900@N03/3275102458/ (accessed October 25, 2009).

[18]Alma M. Reed. Peregrina: Love and Death in Mexico. (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2007). The book illustrates Miserendino with his bust portrait of the author, who was a well-known journalist in Yucatan in the 1920s.