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 Emma Stebbins  (1815 - 1882)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: symbolic fountain sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Emma Stebbins
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the mid-19th century American women studying sculpture in Rome, Emma Stebbins was part of the group nicknamed the "white marmorean flock" by Henry James. She settled in New York City where she became known for her sculptures of portrait busts and classical figure statues, one of them being the figure in Central Park fountain, Angel of the Waters.  For this work she is credited as the first woman to receive a commission for a major work of art in New York City.  It is described as:

"The definitive crown jewel of Central Park. One of the most famous and universally loved fountains in the world. The only sculpture commissioned as part of the original design of Central Park. Symbolizes and celebrates the purifying of the city’s water supply when the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842 bringing fresh water to all New Yorkers. For this reason, she carries a lily, the symbol of purity, in one hand while her other hand extends outward as she blesses the water below. The idea comes from the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 5, the story of an angel bestowing healing powers on the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Beneath the eight-foot gilded bronze statue are four smaller four-foot figures symbolizing Temperance, Purity, Health & Peace." (Peace and Other Monuments)

She was born in New York City and first devoted her career to painting oil and watercolor. In 1857, she went to Italy and worked with the Italian masters in sculpture and also worked with Benjamin Paul Akers in 1870.

Stebbins exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy and the National Academy, of which she was an elected member.

Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Artists
Peace and Other Monuments Related to Women,

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