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By Charles Cary Rumsey
Gift of Charles C. Rumsey Jr. and Mary A. Rumsey
Bronze. h. 5' 10 3/4"; w. 26 1/2; d. 55
Stamped on side of the base, left rear corner: CIRE PERDU / C. VALSUANI / PARIS
Date: 1910; Cast executed late 1920s in Provenance
History of the statue: Beneath illustrations
Vermont marble Ionic columns
|In 1913 Charles Cary Rumsey
received an invitation to contribute a large equestrian statue of Pizarro
to the Panama Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.
It was the last of the great Expositions, and it commemorated the opening of the Pan-American Canal. The plan involved a large and elaborate scheme of temporary architecture, fountains, gardens, and sculpture which extolled American historical, scientific, and technological progress. There were pavilions dedicated to new technologies and sculptural groups that allegorized everything from energy, to the Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest.
In fact, the Exposition should be understood not only as an enormously ambitious
attempt to exhibit the advanced art of the time, but also as a subtle form of political
theatre, a vast stage upon which was propagated a unique myth of American history.
Part of this myth consisted of the famous and much romanticized figures of the remote
past. Along with the "Cortez" of Charles Nichaus, Rumsey's "Pizarro"
flanked the Tower of Jewels, a structure fronting the Courtyard of the Universe.
A sculptural ensemble heroizing the legendary conquerors of America must have been
particularly charged at a moment when the nation felt itself to be on the threshold
of a new historical period.
In the "Pizarro" Rumsey reconciled two competing demands. The first was for a generally harmonious composition such as would have been expected in an equestrian portrait. The second was for historical accuracy ó truthfulness to the record regarding Pizarro's actual appearance. Fremiet, like other historical realists of the Beaux-Arts tradition, insisted on the visual accuracy of historical imagery and his former pupil was to do the same.
Details of the armor in the model are drawn from careful study of Pizarro's armor,
presented in Madrid. In his research Rumsey also discovered that the preferred horse
of the conquistadors was a short, stocky, strong pony completely unlike the more
slimly proportioned and elegant thoroughbreds which had been his previous models.
me proportion of horse to rider in the Pizarro is, therefore, quite different from
that of the more idealized equestrian statues of the period.
Since the work was to have an architectural setting, it required an appropriate treatment of decorative data. As Quattrocchi described the model:
Rumsey's statue was well-received and he was awarded a bronze medal. A number
of different versions were made later, among them the unique statue in bronze at
the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Reprint from The Buffalo News, November 15, 1987