What do these two statues represent?
"Nydia" and "The Lost Pleiad" were both sculpted by the American artist Randolph Rogers. Rogers was very interested in history and mythology! The one at the left shows Nydia, a fictional character from the 1834 novel "The Last Days of Pompeii" by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
She is running to try to escape the volcano that was erupting over Pompeii and destroying the city. She was blind, as you might be able to guess by her closed eyes and her walking stick.
The one to the right is also by Rogers. It shows a "pleiad." In ancient Greek myth the Pleiades were sisters who were turned into stars in the sky.
This one fell in love with a mortal man and got separated from her sisters. You can see her looking for them, with her hand to her eyes.
What is she listening to?
In this sculpture by Randolph Rogers, Nydia is listening to her surroundings! She was a character in the famous 19th-century book "The Last Days of Pompeii." In the story, she was blind. Rogers shows her listening to the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius which was about to bury the Roman city of Pompeii under tons of lava and volcanic ash. Can you see the broken column at her feet?
If you're in the mood for some more volcano action, I suggest seeking out James Hamilton's "Last Days of Pompeii" (1846) on our 3rd floor, in the central court. Lots more lava there!
Did Nydia manage to escape?
Well, yes and no. See, she was a slave girl, and she fell in love with a young boy named Glaucus, whom she helped escape from the volcano. Well, she helped both Glaucus and his betrothed, named Ione, to escape. At that point, realizing that even if she made it out alive, she would have to live knowing Glaucus and Ione were happy together, she decided to take her own life and drown herself.
True, but it's also quite heroic, to Victorian eyes! The sentiment of "I'd rather die than. . ." was a popular one among the Romans, as well as the 19th-century Europeans who glorified them.
I love the blind girl from Pompeii. She pops up in museums across the country.
Classical subjects and stories were outrageously popular from the late 18th century onwards in Europe and America! Sculptors like Rogers would make sculptures to display in their studios in Italy. When you visited the studio during your European travels, you could place an order for a replica of a sculpture and have it delivered to your home in the United States when it was complete. Rogers' studio made hundreds of copies of Nydia in various sizes and materials, so there was something for almost every budget. And now several versions are in different American museums!
Art in the age of the Grand Tour and mechanical reproduction!
Can you tell me about these two sculptures? One looks like she's trying to hear and another looks like she's trying to see.
Yes! The one who is listening represents a blind character, "Nydia;" the sculpture is by Randolph Rogers. Nydia comes from the book "The Last Days of Pompeii" by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton. She is attempting to flee the city of Pompeii as it is being destroyed by a volcano, but is blind so she is trying to listen instead of see.
The woman trying to look at her surroundings is "The Lost Pleiad." This sculpture is by the same artist, Randolph Rogers.
She is looking for her sisters, stars in the sky who she was separated from when she fell in love with a mortal man.
I've never thought of them as representing two senses before, that's a great connection!
Amazing! Such a nice storyline behind them, thank you!
I have seen the statue of Nydia by Randolph Rogers three times now. How many times did he make it and why?
Rogers's Nydia and the other Neoclassical sculptures in the same gallery were available for purchase at the artists' studios. They were created as many times as they were bought. Rogers's studio produced over fifty Nydias.
Wealthy American tourists in 19th century Europe would visit the studios of American sculptors in Europe and order a statue, like Nydia. It would be created for them and shipped to their home in the states.
Thank you! That is very interesting!
Do you know if all versions of the Nydia are of the same size?
Nydia came in two sizes, what we have is the larger size, about 54 inches tall. You could also order a 36 inch version.
Great! Thank you, this is a great service!
How did the artist do the first design? Did he do a smaller version all by himself or did he start out with assistants under his instruction?
He would have created the first version himself in either plaster or clay that the marble versions could then be copied from with the assistance of a "pointing machine."