Post Road Gallery
American Sculpture


Margaret Foley
American, 1827 - 1877

"Head of Prophet Zephaniah"
Oval Marble Relief Plaque,
Signed and Dated 1865
26 inches high x 22 wide
Period oval gilt frame.

An Identical plaque is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum with a slightly later date. It can be seen by clicking here.


Click on the image to enlarge

Margaret Foley

Margaret Foley was a member of the expatriot community of American artists who studied and prospered in Rome in the 1860's and 1870's. Amongst this group there was a subculture of female sculptor who Henry James, in his monograph of William Wetmore Story, described as "...that strange sisterhood of American 'lady sculptors' who at one time settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock." Foley, although arriving in Italy somewhat later, was very much a member of this group. She was born in Vermont but at a young age went to Lowell, Massachusetts for employment. Instead of working in the mills there, she found professional employment as a cameo cutter. Foley was always plagued by poor health and finding working in miniature stressful she chose to go overseas to study marble carving. She left America for Europe in 1861 and traveled from Bologna to Rome with Charlotte Cushman and Emma Stebbins. On arriving in Rome in October where the three were met by Harriet Hosmer. In Italy, Foley's career flourished. She did commissioned portraits of William Cullen Bryant, Henry Longfellow and Charles Sumner. In 1876 she exhibited her Cleopatra and a large fountain at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Today the fountain is in Fairmont Park. Unfortunately her career was cut short by illness. Soon after the Centennial was diagnosed with what was thought to be a brain infection and succumbed to it in December of 1877. In 1878 William Howitt, a friend, patron and author, wrote a biography on Foley in "The Art Journal". Most of this information was taken from that article.

William Wetmore Story's letters tell of how he was acquainted with "the emancipated females" who formed this artistic community. Charlotte Cushman (actress) and Harriet Hosmer were the most successful of the group but Foley, Edmonia Lewis and Emma Stebbins were also active and filling commissions. The women had an attitude and independence that was rare and progressive in mid 19th century society. Story told of Harriet Hosmer being confronted by the Roman Police for riding a horse through the streets. He said that "Hatty (Hosmer) takes a high hand here with Rome, and would have the Romans know that a Yankee Girl can do anything she pleases, walk alone, ride her horse alone and laugh at their rules." As a group these groundbreaking women have more than a footnote in feminist history and American Art History.

Henry James, "William Wetmore Story and His Friends, From Letters, Diaries and Recollections", William Blackwood and Sons, London, 1903, Pages 257-259.

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