Friday, November 5, 2010

Original clay sculpture of Governor Steunenberg's statue

One of the treasures I found while browsing the Internet a few years ago are the photographs below of the original clay model sculpture done by Gilbert Riswold for the Frank Steunenberg's statue that sits in front of the Idaho Capitol building in Boise. We have of course talked about and visited Governor Steunenberg's statue before, but these are the first photos I have seen of the original at the California Bronze Foundry in Los Angeles where the casting was done by Nelli Guido. Having done some studying of the work of a sculptor, and visited a foundry, I could argue that the skills required in the casting and finishing process are probably as equally important, if not more so, than those of the 
original artist. 

USC Digital Library

This biography of Guido Nelli from the Archives of AskART: Born in Rome, Italy on June 6, 1888. Nelli studied in his native city at Institute di Belle Arti and learned the Cellini method of casting from his father, Francisco. For 15 years he maintained a foundry in Petrograd, Russia where he cast works for the Imperial Palace. Due to the revolution he fled Russia in 1919 and, shortly thereafter, immigrated to New York. After arriving in Los Angeles in 1927, he established the California Bronze Foundry and began casting some of the more important bronze works across the U.S. His work also includes more than 100 copies of Charles M. Russell's work. In his leisure he painted and sculpted until his death in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, 1952. In: Hall of Fame, Washington, DC (Junípero Serra and Starr King); Kansas City (Pioneer Group); Santa Anita Race Track (Seabiscuit ); Golden Gate Bridge (Joseph Strauss).Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Argus, Dec. 1927, p. 11; California Arts and Architecture list, 1932; Who's Who in California 1942; Los Angeles Times, 11-28-1926 & 11-11-1952 (obituary).

These photographs come from the USC Library and can be viewed online at this USC Digital Library link. Type Steunenberg into the search box. I have contacted the library as would like to purchase higher resolution scans or photographic copies to frame for the wall.

I assume the original sculpture statue is long gone and was destroyed once the bronze casting was poured and completed. The California Bronze Foundry is gone too as far as I know. About this time (1927/1928), the same foundry was casting the first Academy Awards, the "Oscar", then made of bronze and plated with 24-karat gold.

I don't see any Oscars sitting around the foundry in the pictures of the governor's statue. The governor was noted for his informality and not wearing a necktie. Oscar is noted for not wearing anything.

Oscar and Frank

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