"Ha! I Like Not That!"
Painted plaster with metal parts
Overall: 21 3/4 x 19 1/4 x 12 in. ( 55.2 x 48.9 x 30.5 cm )
signed: center front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/1882" inscribed: front base: "'HA ! I LIKE NOT THAT' IAGO OTHELLO DESDEMONA CASSIO"
Rogers contemplated the plays of Shakespeare as a potential subject from the earliest years of his professional career. In 1861 he wrote of his plans for a series, and he assayed a handful of such themes into 1862, including one titled The Merchant of Venice, which he showed at the National Academy of Design (to his dismay, it went unnoticed). No examples of these early groups survive. The Bard did not resurface in Rogers' work until almost twenty years later. The artist's skills and ambition had grown considerably, and "Ha! I Like Not That" was the third Shakespearean group of his mature career, after "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" from The Merchant of Venice (1936.659, 1926.37) and The Wrestlers (1936.645, 1926.37) from As You Like It. Rogers' latest Shakespearean work was considered a companion to "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" which was similar in size and format. The pair embraced two of the playwright's best-known works, one classified as a comedy and the other as a tragedy. Where the scene from The Merchant of Venice depicts the tense moments before the villainous Shylock is foiled and all is happily resolved, Rogers chose a scene from Othello that sets in motion events that lead to murder. Rogers capitalized on the play's success and heightened his sculpture's popular appeal by modeling the characters after actors famous for their performances in the play. The acclaimed American performer Edwin Booth posed for Iago, and the Italian Tommaso Salvini was said to have posed for Othello. Rogers ordinarily attempted to convey an entire narrative within each sculpture, but in these groups he presented a small slice of a much larger narrative, and his concern for intelligibility is evident in the extra aids that he provided. Though most middle-class late-nineteenth-century Americans were familiar with the story, Rogers took care to situate the viewer in the action of the play. As was the case with his other Shakespearean subjects, his sales catalogue included an unusually long and elaborate explanation of the moment depicted. The title is a key line from that scene, and the base of the group, normally reserved for the title alone, also bears the names of the characters. In this vignette from act 3, scene 3, Desdemona and Cassio are conferring in the garden. On Iago's advice, Cassio is entreating her to help restore him to her husband Othello's good graces. Othello and Iago are walking together in the garden, and, when Iago sees his commander's wife with his rival, he exclaims his titular line in an attempt to arouse Othello's suspicions about their relationship. The climactic moment when Othello kills his wife in a rage, thinking her unfaithful, would have made a grisly subject for middle-class parlors, so Rogers showed what a contemporary writer called the "keystone of the tragedy," knowing that his viewers were aware of the events that followed. The action takes place in a squared-off stagelike space. As in a theater production, the garden is suggested by a few minimal props: the grassy surface of the base and the vase placed on an elaborate pedestal that separates Iago and Othello from Desdemona and the departing Cassio. Rogers' mastery of costume and detail is on display, particularly in Othello's exotic cloak, sword, and cap and Desdemona's richly decorated dress. The artist created a dynamic composition by placing the figures at different heights and in a variety of poses: Othello harks to Iago's words as he gazes across at the others; Cassio is bowing in gratitude, but his posture might be misinterpreted for affection; and Desdemona is pulling away from him, moving toward her husband.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 4, New York Historical Society. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 92-3. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 250, 294, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 184-5.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.