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Anthony, Susan B.

EPHEMERA: Bas Relief Portrait.


Rondel, ( 7" diameter) profile portrait (right profile), signed in the plaster by the artist in lower right front, "Sidney Morse". Original small hanging hook at top. Inset 2" x 2 3/4" embossed tin plate on back: "Copyright, June 1897. By Mary S. Anthony, Endorsed by the Political Equality Club of Rochester, N. Y." Two 1" chips to plaster at edges not affecting image. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
We know of only one other copy, belonging to the Susan B. Anthony House.
Sidney H. Morse (1832-1903) was born in Rochester, New York, the younger brother of Samuel F. B. Morse, artist and inventor of the telegraph. Samuel and Sidney patented a workable piston pump for fire engines and, a few years later, constructed a marble cutting machine. It was during this time that Sidney discovered his gift as a sculptor. He was overshadowed, however, by the success of his older brother, Samuel, both as an artist and an inventor. Having gained financial security through his patents, he led a bohemian life as a sculptor for a short number of years before traveling to the Midwest to study at Antioch College to become a Unitarian Minister. Upon graduation he preached in the Midwest before returning to the East Coast. After arriving in Boston, he began work on the magazine, The Radical, precursor of The Dial. As revealed in letters between Samuel and Sidney; the young Sidney was his brother's intellectual equal. Sidney was an intimate companion of Walt Whitman, having moved into the poet's home in the summer of 1887 along with artist Herbert Gilchrist. Sidney made a plaster portrait of Whitman in old age which is signed Sidney Morse Sculptor 1887 and was one of the poet's favorite likenesses. It is now part of the permanent collection at Yale University. Morse is known to have done one other plaster portrait of a woman, that of George Eliot. It is at the Smithsonian Institute. The other known Anthony portrait was loaned from the Susan B. Anthony House to the University of Rochester for their current on-line exhibition entitled: Upstate New York and the Women's Rights Movement.
This bas relief portrait of Susan B. Anthony is not listed in any of the usual artist references. Images of Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) abound. She was photographed often during her life of service in the cause of women's rights. And, by 1896 she was being accorded the respect due a national leader. Her birthdays (Feb. 15) became occasions for an abundant outpouring of love and affection for "our grand old Susan". In June of 1897, the Political Equality Club commissioned this bas relief to put on sale to obtain money "for the suffrage fund".
Mary Stafford Anthony (1827-1907), younger sister of Susan B. Anthony was publicly overshadowed by her famous older sibling, as was Sidney Morse. Mary was an extremely active suffragist, her interest in women's right, in fact, preceded that of Susan's. She attended the first Woman's Rights Convention in 1848. The sisters were very close, and Mary was of invaluable support to Susan. In fact in 1870, when Susan's journal The Revolution was in financial straits, Mary not only loaned her sister money, but spent a sweltering New York City summer working in the journal's office, while Susan traveled to raise money and attract subscribers. Susan often expressed appreciation that her younger sister generally assumed the responsibility of caring for ill and dependent family members, thereby allowing Susan to devote her energies to women's rights activities. This is an extremely rare and beautiful portrait showing the strength and greatness of Susan B. Anthony. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol.IV. pp. 289, 849. Harper, The Life and Works of Susan B. Anthony, p. 917.
Description courtesy Priscilla Juvelis.

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