Vermont-born Larkin Goldsmith Mead was a prominent expatriate sculptor who worked in Florence for more than half a century. During the mid-1860s he made frequent trips to Venice, where his brother-in-law William Dean Howells served as the American consul and where Mead met his future bride, Marietta di Benvenuti. Venezia, his best-known sculpture (of which there are more than ten located examples), depicts an attractive young woman, probably the sculptor's wife at the time of their courtship and marriage. As a personification of Venice, she wears a tiara of beads and a central scallop shell, upon which is set a small gondola. The figure emerges from a textured sea-foam bodice—particularly finely carved in this marble—that serves not only as the bust's termination but also as a reference to Venice's aqueous environment. Idealized representations of such geographic locales as Venezia, as well as America and California by Hiram Powers, also in the Museum's collection (acc. nos. 66.243, 72.3), were particularly appealing to mid-nineteenth century Americans. This allegorical bust may be viewed as a nuptial portrait, since Mead not only honors his new wife but also offers a tribute to Venice, traditionally known as the Bride of the Sea.
Signature: [on back]: L.G. Mead
Private collection, California; [Conner-Rosenkranz, New York, until 1999]