Artist: Peter Stephenson
Title: The Wounded Indian
35 1/8 x 59 x 31 in. (89.2 x 149.9 x 78.7 cm)
Gift of James H. Ricau and Museum Purchase
Using marble quarried in Vermont, Peter Stephenson carved an injured American Indian, sitting with his back stooped and his weight on one hand. A wound from an arrow oozes from his abdomen. Sorrow and pain are expressed through the man’s lowered head. His head deeply bowed, he is possibly slipping into unconsciousness. His hand gently falls open, revealing an arrow that has pierced his side. This implies he was wounded by someone from his or another tribe, and not by a European settler. Perhaps Stephenson’s frontier experience as a young boy in Michigan left him with both respect and sympathy for the American Indian. His choice of marble, a material used by Greek and Roman artists to honor gods, warriors, and athletes, demonstrates the artist’s respect for the American Indian.
Known for his portrait cameos, portrait busts, and occasional large works such as The Wounded Indian, Peter Stephenson was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1823. His family moved to New York when he was four and then settled briefly in Michigan, bringing young Stephenson in close contact with American Indians. After his father’s death, Stephenson returned to New York, apprenticed as a watchmaker, and then as a cameo artisan. Eventually saving enough money, he moved to Rome, Italy, in 1845. For 19 months, the artist worked in the ancient city, drawing from nature and carving sculptures inspired by the classical world. Returning in 1846 to Boston, he began to exhibit, teach, and work on The Wounded Indian, for which he received considerable public recognition. His commissions increased and he was able to open his Gallery of Bronze and Marble Statuary in Boston’s Armory Hall. Succumbing to mental illness, Stephenson died a short nine years later.