Artist: Joseph Mozier
Title: Pocahontas

48 1/2 x 19 x 16 7/8 in. (123.2 x 48.3 x 42.9 cm)
Gift of James H. Ricau and Museum purchase


How is the woman standing?  Try to stand in a similar pose.  What do the position of her head and hands suggest?

The woman holds a cross in one hand and a leash to a deer in her other hand.  What do these things suggest about the woman or her story?

What information does her clothing offer about who she is or where she might have lived?


“Pocahontas” was the nickname of Matoaka, daughter of the Powhatan Confederacy tribal chief.  Many stories and movies about her have been created since her death, though only one image was made of Matoaka during her lifetime. It was created by engraver Simon Van De Passe in 1616.  Stories of her life were written long after they occurred, and several books and movies have altered facts from her life.  The term “artistic license” is often used to explain when an artist or writer alters facts, embellishing them at his or her discretion.  Joseph Mozier sculpted this statue of “Pocahontas” over 200 years after Matoaka’s death.  He shows her as a young girl clothed in animal fur, intending to capture her prior to any influence by European culture.  The artist offered that he created a spiritual conversation: she contemplates the cross, or Christianity, while still holding the pet deer -- her untamed spirit as a Powhatan.


Matoaka captured the attention of Joseph Mozier early in his career, as one of his earliest successful busts was of the young Powhatan.  Mozier was a neoclassical sculptor, influenced by the marble statues of ancient Greece and Rome.  The neoclassical style was popular with many artists in both Europe and America during the nineteenth century, as it revived connections to the roots of democracy and early ideals of beauty.  Considered timeless, these ideals challenged the drastic changes America was experiencing at the time when Mozier sculpted Pocahontas. Western frontiers were expanding, industrialism was displacing rural life, and science was challenging religious beliefs.


If you were to commission, or order, a sculpture of Matoaka today, would you emphasize the same qualities that Mozier did? 

How would you have Matoaka remembered?