Saturday, April 9, 2016


The White Captive

Indian Girl, The Dawn of Christianity

"In this full-length nude, the artist took the opportunity to create a pendant for the "Indian Girl". While in the earlier sculpture he wished "to show the influence of Christianity upon the savage," in "The White Captive" he explored "the influence of the savage upon Christianity." Thus from the beginning "The White Captive" was, in the sculptor's mind, the personification of Christianity. "The White Captive" portrays a youthful female figure who has been abducted from her sleep and held captive by savage Indians. Hands bound, and stripped of a nightgown hanging from a tree trunk, she turns her head away from the terror, and clenches her left first, in defiance of imminent harm. Palmer was particularly commended for his use of a "thoroughly American" subject that makes a conscious allusion to the endless skirmishes between the Native Americans and the white pioneers.  "The White Captive" was exhibited by itself at the William Schaus gallery in New York City, from November 1859 to January 1860.
" Dawn of Christianity would symbolize the first impression of civilization upon the native of this country." He selected a young Native American woman to hold in her hands the props that unlock the symbolic intent of the sculpture: in her left hand, wild bird feathers have been forgotten in favor of the elevated crucifix in her right hand. The fleshy figure is semi-nude, dressed below the waist in a deerskin with a wampum border secured by a girdle."