Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Eagle Slayer by Edward William Wyon, 1846

The Eagle Slayer
E.W. Wyon
After John Bell
The Victoria &
Albert Museum
This powerful statuette is a reduced-scale bronze version of the full-size figure by John Bell. The figure is inscribed on the side near the right foot: “EXECUTED BY/ E.W.WYON/ AFTER THE ORIGINAL OF/ J. BELL/ FOR THE ART UNION OF LONDON/ 1846.”

The original version of this figure was exhibited (in plaster) at the Royal Academy in 1837. The same subject was again shown at an exhibition in Westminster Hall in 1844. This time the figure was titled, “The Eagle Slayer” where it had been previously exhibited under the titles, “The Archer” or “The Eagle Shooter.”

Depicted here is a scene of a shepherd shooting an arrow at an eagle which he has just spied killing the lamb which lies at the shepherd's feet. Following the 1844 exhibition at Westminster Hall, the figure was purchased by a group known as the Art Union--an organization which reproduced contemporary works of art. Those reproductions—such as this one—were then raffled and awarded as lottery prizes.

The Art Union served another important purpose. The Union allowed for the wide distribution of many contemporary sculptures which they reproduced in bronze or in Parian. This allowed many middle-class art lovers to acquire important pieces of art for the first time.

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