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Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen


Date: 1850
20 x 12 x 7 in. (50.8 x 30.5 x 17.8 cm.)
Medium: bronze
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Purchased with funds from the Art Collectors' Council
Object Number: 98.6
Label Text:Filatrice depicts a woman in classical dress using a drop spindle, or distaff, to spin thread, a technique employed since ancient times to keep unspun fibers from tangling. Brown's classical allusions are keeping with American sculpture of the time (see, for example, Chauncey Ives's Pandora in room 7 of these galleries), but this particular subject may also refer to the burgeoning American textile industry centered in Massachusetts.

Brown sought to create a distinctly American style of sculpture and started a foundry in Chicopee, Massachusetts, to produce bronzes. This piece was part of an edition of 30 given to subscribers to the American Art-Union in 1850. The Art-Union attempted to spread American art throughout the country by distributing one print of an American painting each year for a subscription of $5. Through a lottery, members could also win an original work of art; prizes included Filatrice and a genre painting by George Caleb Bingham.