The Tap on the Window
Overall: 19 1/4 x 16 x 10 1/2 in. ( 48.9 x 40.6 x 26.7 cm )
signed: proper right front top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscriptions: front of base: "THE TAP ON THE WINDOW"
Starting in the late 1860s, Rogers turned to theatrical scenes and domestic subjects. This group represents a combination of both: an incident set at home that might easily be read as a scene from a light comedy. A fashionably dressed young man has just made a proposal of marriage to his amour, but a tap on the window has interrupted their interview before she can answer. Startled, she has jumped up and upset her chair. Both look intently out the window, the young man with surprise and alarm, the lady with coquettish curiosity; Rogers explained that she sees someone at the window who is more to her liking. She is trying to withdraw her hand from the young man's grasp, but he holds it tightly, unwilling to surrender her to his unseen rival. At his feet two cats circle each other around his hat in a humorous imitation of the two men vying for the young woman. Rogers had taken courtship as a subject four years earlier with Parting Promise (1940.203, 1929.82), which depicts a man putting a ring on the finger of his intended before going on a journey. In contrast to the unabashed sentiment of that earlier work, The Tap on the Window is a comic image that plays on the old theme of rival suitors. Rogers was an avid theatergoer, and this sculpture can be seen as a bridge between his domestic and theater subjects. Rather than presenting each character clearly in the vignette, Rogers concealed the mysterious person disturbing the scene. He is offstage, so to speak, and both the young man and the reluctant object of his affections seem to be waiting for him to enter and oust the less-desired suitor. As a satire on domestic genre, and perhaps even a satire on Rogers' own earlier, more sentimental work, this group is closely linked to his subjects taken directly from popular plays of his time, and also to his later rendering of theatrical amusements at home, including Private Theatricals: Last Moments behind the Scenes (1929.91) and The Mock Trial: Argument for the Prosecution (1929.114, 1926.35). Humor had played a supporting role in Rogers' work since the beginning of his career, but in groups such as this it began to take center stage. Rogers issued the work in time for holiday shopping. One commentator assured readers that it would make a tasteful gift. The writer emphasized that the sculptor's artistic credentials made it permissible for him to venture into the realm of humor, pointing out Rogers' other works that incorporated key figures in the country's recent history: "the long line of statesmen, patriots, poets and preachers who have been so faithfully delineated and embodied in the works of Rogers, the artist."
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 3, 4, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Dec. 1, 1874, p. 8. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Dec. 7, 1874, p. 4. Unattributed Artlcle, John Rogers file, William H. Gerdts Library, ca. 1874. New York Daily Graphic, Jan. 8, 1877, p. 3. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society", New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 80. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.82-3. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 237, 294, 296, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 144-5.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.