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Ruth Gleaning

Artist: Randolph Rogers (1825-1892); American working in Rome
Year: 1866
Medium: Marble
Size: Height - 46", Width - 26"
Original Location: Front Hall
Pedestal: Original, rotating

​Ruth Gleaning Wheat, a marble sculpture by Randolph Rogers, was Rogers’ first and largest idealized female figure.[i] The biblical story entails Ruth following after Boaz’s field workers, when they had harvested the wheat and barley from the rich man’s fields, and picking up the grains that had fallen on the ground. Rogers captured Ruth’s moment of humble resignation, as she collects the valuable kernels left behind in order to feed herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Rogers originally carved Ruth Gleaning Wheat in 1853, but made many copies as it was his most popular piece. It was later bought by Adelicia Acklen in 1866.

In the mid to late nineteenth century, European travel was essential for artists in order to receive proper artistic training.[ii] At that time in the United States, there were no widely accepted formal academies, especially none that lived up to the European standard. Sculpting specifically had to be learned in Italy, where the great Italian Masters studied and learned.[iii] In 1871, he created a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln for Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, and in 1876 a bronze memorial of William Seward in New York’s Madison Square Garden.[iv] The nineteenth century saw a revival of the Classical aesthetic, which prioritized order, harmony, clarity, and purity.[v] This became the standard of fine art for a period, which Adelicia would have known and is most likely why she bought a copy of Rogers’ Ruth Gleaning.

He submitted Ruth Gleaning Wheat to the London International Exposition of 1862 and the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, meaning he was proud of the execution and subject matter of the piece.[vi] Adelicia acknowledged this pride by purchasing the sculpture, determining that she needed the sculpture in her home. This would underscore her own nobility and emphasize the illustriousness of her southern home.

Because the Belmont Mansion was created after the architectural model of an Italian villa, it would make sense for Adelicia Acklen to furnish and decorate the interior of her lavish home in that same fashion.[vii] That fashion included marble busts of mythological and religious individuals. As a well-educated woman, Adelicia would have known the ideal way to embellish her estate in a way that would connect her to European aristocrats, elevating her status in America. In Rome on her grand European tour, Adelicia bought Ruth Gleaning Wheat for 2,000 dollars.[viii]

Frances Williams
3 November 2017

[i] Randolph Rogers and Millard F. Rogers Jr., (Ann Arbor: The University of Massacusetts Press, 1971), 15-19, 152. [From the Belmont File]

[ii] Randolph Rogers, “The Man and His Times,” 3. [From the Belmont File]

[iii] Randolph Rogers, “The Man and His Times,” 4. [From the Belmont File]

[iv] Katherine Harper Mead, The Preston Morton Collection of American Art, (Santa Barbara Museum of Art), 130. [From the Belmont File]

[v] Fred Kleiner et al, Gardner's Art through the Ages (Harcourt College, 2001), 847.

[vi] Mead, The Preston Morton Collection, 131. [From the Belmont File]

[vii] Louise Davis, “Durable Beauty,” The Nashville Tennesseean Magazine ([Nashville], 1 February 1948), 6. [From the Belmont File]

[viii] Rogers and Rogers Jr., 15-19, 152. [From the Belmont File]

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