“The Boy” by Elihu Vedder

When in Rome, Make Art as the Romans Do!

This fountain topper marks a special place among New York and Italian artist Elihu Vedder’s works. Initially a painter, Vedder began exploring new media and turned to designing decorative objects in 1881. Around the same time, his career led him to Rome, an epicenter for the arts in the Western world. There, he collaborated with Charles Keck (1875-1951), another American artist, on a series of sculptures.

The Boy is the largest and perhaps most impressive byproduct of Vedder and Keck’s collaboration, a masterpiece of ancient Roman inspiration. Cast in bronze, it stands at nearly four feet between the boy, the basin overhead, and the screaming ram base. The impact of the city comes through in the base. Modeled after traditional Roman oil lamps, it calls viewers to dream of a bygone era. Sinister and unnerving, the ram demands attention, but the boy, balancing deftly atop it, commands mastery over the beast. Curiously, the artists originally sculpted the boy unclothed, but later added sparse garments, perhaps in order to juxtapose his modesty with the shock of the ram. Gaze at the innocent water-bearer and glean his secrets of pacification; use them to calm the masses at wild Hamilton parties.

Allison Donlan and Jack Zogheb


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