Playing Doctor

Object Number: 
Painted plaster
Overall: 14 3/4 x 14 3/4 x 11 in. ( 37.5 x 37.5 x 27.9 cm )
signed: proper left top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: obscured-top back of base: "PATENTED...." inscribed: front base: "PLAYING DOCTOR"
Genre figure.
Gallery Label: 
This group represents an amusing scene of child life that Rogers' sales catalogues described in detail: "two children wrapped in their parents' clothes, as mother and doctor, are playing that a younger one is sick, and his mother has wrapped him in a blanket, and soaked his feet, before she called the doctor; but now he has come, with his bottle of medicine, and is examining the patient." The children are irresistible in their oversize garments, and the charm of the scene is enhanced by the earnest expressions of the "mother" and "doctor" as they discuss the bemused "patient." The group was a popular success and became a familiar decoration in doctors' waiting rooms. Rogers did not mention in his sales catalogue that the children were his own: Johnny, age six, Katie age four, and Charlie, two years old. This was the first time that Rogers had used his children as models. In portraying his children enjoying an innocent amusement, Rogers universalized the joys of his own family life, and after this point the sculptor's work took an autobiographical turn. He derived more and more of his subjects from the lives of his family and their neighbors, and he used them as models with growing frequency. For this personal subject, he chose an equally intimate scale; the plaster measures little more than fourteen inches high, in contrast to the approximately twenty-two-inch height of his groups over the past several years. Perhaps in keeping with the humble domesticity of the scene, he also departed from his usual verticality to employ a horizontal composition that conveys a sense of the figures' small size. Though Rogers' sales catalogues did not identify his models, he made certain that newspapers did. Most notices of the new group pointed out that the children were his, adding that this would no doubt add to the sculpture's popularity. By the early 1870s Rogers was a genuine celebrity; given his status as a well-known and beloved artist, his admirers would be interested in a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his personal life and his family, just as the fascination with children of celebrities enjoys renewed popularity in the twenty-first century.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "The Rogers Statuettes," The Evening Post, New York, Dec. 19, 1872. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.78-9. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 228, 231-2, 294, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 136-7.
Credit Line: 
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group