Indian Girl, or The Dawn of Christianity

Artist: Erastus Dow Palmer (American, Pompey, New York 1817–1904 Albany, New York)

Date: 1853–56; carved 1855–56

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: 60 x 19 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (152.4 x 50.2 x 56.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Bequest of Hamilton Fish, 1894

Accession Number: 94.9.2


"The Indian Girl," or "The Dawn of Christianity," marked Palmer’s first attempt to model a full-length female figure. The Albany, New York–based sculptor outlined the symbolic program for the statue in a letter to his patron, Hamilton Fish: "A young Indian Maiden wandering listlessly in her native forest gathering bird-plumes finds a crucifix, which impressive emblem she, seeing for the first time, gazes upon with wonder and compassion." Palmer directed the seminude girl’s attention toward the found object, which she cradles in her elevated right hand. Her left hand, holding the forgotten feathers, rests limply at her side.