The Fisher Girl

Object Number: 
Ceramic parian
Overall: 13 1/4 x 11 3/4 x 9 in. ( 33.7 x 29.8 x 22.9 cm )
inscriptions: front of base: "THE FISHER GIRL" inscribed: back of base: "AFTER BARBEE'S STATUE BY JOHN ROGERS/ COPELAND" INSCRIBED: proper right side of base: "A PREMIUM AWARDED BY THE COSMOPOLITAN ART ASSOCIATION 1861"
Genre figure.
Gallery Label: 
The Fisher Girl is not an original composition by Rogers, but rather a copy of a sculpture by a contemporary artist. Early in Rogers' career the Cosmopolitan Art Association commissioned him to reproduce Randolph Barbee's acclaimed statue Fisher Girl of ca. 1858 (Smithsonian American Art Museum). Barbee was a Virginian who joined the colony of American sculptors working in Florence, Italy in the mid-1850s. His marble Fisher Girl was warmly received: the New York Herald called it "the finest work in the Union" with the exception of Hiram Powers' Greek Slave. It was said to have been exhibited at various locations in Europe before coming to the United States, where it was displayed in Washington, D.C. and then New York in late 1859. The sculpture depicts a nude female intent on mending her net. Her idealized pose, carefully articulated musculature, and stylized hair are in keeping with the then-popular neoclassical style. In December of 1859 Barbee's Fisher Girl was purchased by the Cosmopolitan Art Association, a membership organization that distributed works of art by lottery to its subscribers. The Association approached Rogers to model Barbee's sculpture for reproduction for its members. Rogers set to work before the eyes of the public on June 23, 1860 at New York's Dusseldorf Gallery, where the Barbee statue was on display. Rogers completed an initial clay model and cast it in plaster by July 15. The plaster was shipped to the English firm Copeland & Garrett, where it was produced in parian. A soft-paste porcelain hybrid developed in England in the previous decade, the parianware process resulted in a fine-grained finish and a level of detail that produced the effect of marble. Rogers apparently reproduced the work at a smaller scale than Barbee's original, and the firing process reduced the size of the sculpture by about 25%, so that Rogers' version of the statue is approximately half the size of Barbee's sculpture. The Association distributed eleven copies of the sculpture in 1861. The Association's publication the Cosmopolitan Art Journal praised Rogers' efforts, declaring that he had executed the commission "in such a manner as to excite the utmost praise and satisfaction from all who beheld the artist's work." Rogers too was pleased with the result and was briefly inspired to give up plaster and work in the more highly esteemed medium of marble, but he soon returned to plaster and the subjects from American life that earned him national acclaim.
Murphy, Laura, "Parian Ware and the Development of an American Identity," American Ceramic Circle Journal, Williamsburg, VA, Vol. XIV, 2007, pp. 133-49. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 86, 107, 188-9. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 24-27.
Credit Line: 
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group