Henry Kirke Brown (American, 1814–1886)
9 7/8 x 18 5/8 x 7 3/4 in. (25.1 x 47.3 x 19.7 cm)
Purchase, Gifts in memory of James R. Graham, 1992 (1992.372)
In 1846, Brown returned to New York after four years of study in Italy. He was determined to produce "American" sculpture that was neither provincial nor overly dependent on the European Neoclassical marble tradition. Panther and Cubs exemplifies his crusade in two significant ways: his use of bronze and his choice of native subject matter. Brown set up his own bronze foundry in Brooklyn, importing two French workers to assist him. The ability to cast bronze in this country allowed the sculptor to forego the expensive marble carving process and to increase his productivity. In 1848, Brown traveled west in search of native American subject matter, visiting Mackinac Island in Michigan. He produced a large bronze Indian and Panther (1850; unlocated) that was inspired by this trip. The pose of the large panther in this group is identical to the mother panther in Panther and Cubs; in all likelihood it is a reduction after the animal in that group, which did not include the three cubs. The extraordinary texture and detail of the Museum's cast is remarkable for such an early date in the history of American bronze production.