The Freedman

Artist: John Quincy Adams Ward (American, Urbana, Ohio 1830–1910 New York)

Date: 1863, cast 1891

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: 19 1/2 x 14 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. (49.5 x 37.5 x 24.8 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Charles Anthony Lamb and Barea Lamb Seeley, in memory of their grandfather, Charles Rollinson Lamb, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.394


Although it is not documented when Ward began The Freedman, he probably was inspired to compose his statuette of a seated, semi-nude African-American man following Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862. Contemporary appreciation for The Freedman arose from a desire for sculpture that addressed current issues, rather than the less tangible ideals prevalent in Neoclassical works. Not only does this piece offer a commentary on the chief political and moral topic of the era, but it also proclaims Ward's abolitionist sentiments. Ward wrote to one of his patrons, James Reid Lambdin: "I intended [the statuette] to express not one set free by any proclamation so much as by his own hour of freedom." The broken manacles of servitude on the former slave's left wrist and in his right hand state in basic terms the essence of the sculpture. The muscular figure is executed with remarkable attention to realistic physiognomy and anatomy. Ward probably based his model on an African American from his hometown of Urbana, Ohio, or from his travels to the South in 1858. While naturalism prevails overall in the surface treatment, there is an informing classicism, the most obvious antique antecedent being the Belvedere Torso (Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican). The Metropolitan Museum's cast was produced by the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company in 1891. It is exceptional in quality and beautifully crafted with a dark, polished patina.