The Angel of Death and the Sculptor from the Milmore Memorial

Artist: Daniel Chester French (American, Exeter, New Hampshire 1850–1931 Stockbridge, Massachusetts)

Date: 1889–93, carved 1921–26

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: 93 1/2 x 100 1/2 x 32 1/2 in. (237.5 x 255.3 x 82.6 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of a group of Museum trustees, 1926

Accession Number: 26.120


Modeled between 1889 and 1893, French's Milmore Memorial (also known as The Angel of Death and the Sculptor and Death Staying the Hand of the Sculptor) was a commission from the family of Boston sculptor Martin Milmore (1844–1883), to honor his memory and that of his brother Joseph (1841–1886). The bronze, erected in August 1893 in the family plot in Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, was greeted by an acclaim that secured French's status at the forefront of his profession. In the final work, a winged angel of death, massive in her physical presence, appears to the young sculptor, who is in the prime of life. Chisel and mallet in hand, he rests his left knee on a ledge projecting from his unfinished relief. The angel, her cloak falling in heavy folds, reaches out gently with her left hand to halt his actions. In her right hand she carries a group of poppies, symbolizing eternal sleep. In this sculpture, French joined high and low relief with in-the-round sculpture and assimilated realistic and ideal elements into a concordant whole. In 1917, the president of the Metropolitan Museum, Robert W. de Forest, asked French, who was also a Museum trustee, about acquiring a replica of the original. After delays due to World War I, French contracted the Piccirilli Brothers, New York's leading firm of marble carvers, who completed the work between 1921 and 1926.