"Is It So Nominated In The Bond?"
Overall: 23 x 19 x 11 1/2 in. ( 58.4 x 48.3 x 29.2 cm )
signed: proper right front corner of the base: "ROGERS/NEW-YORK/1880" inscribed: front of base: ANTONIO BASSANIO PORTIA SHYLOCK/"IS IT SO NOMINATED IN THE BOND?" inscribed: on back, 3rd step from top: "PATENTED/ JUNE 1880"
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. Nearly twenty years passed before the Bard resurfaced in Rogers' work. The artist's skills and ambition had grown considerably, and for his first mature Shakespearean group he returned to The Merchant of Venice to create the complex and ambitious "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" The line that Rogers quoted as his title is taken from the climactic trial scene. Shylock, at right, has come to collect a pound of flesh from Antonio in penalty for defaulting on Shylock's loan to him. The dashing young Bassanio holds a bag of gold that Shylock has refused in lieu of payment on his friend's behalf. Distinguished Antonio (modeled after the artist's friend the Reverend Robert Collyer) has shed his cloak and is opening his shirt, preparing for the dreadful fulfillment of their bargain. Looming over the three men is Portia, disguised as a judge. In keeping with Rogers' earlier depictions of intelligent, capable women, she presides over this tangled legal web, dispensing justice and ultimately foiling Shylock. Here she urges Shylock to have a surgeon on hand to attend to Antonio's wounds and Shylock makes his merciless retort. He is the picture of evil and menace, with hooked nose, grimacing face, and pointed beard, brandishing the tools he will use to exact his fee. His skullcap identifies him as a Jew, and Rogers' caricatured portrayal was in keeping with the malicious stereotyping inherent in Shakespeare's portrayal of the moneylender. The composition is a ballet of interlocking gestures: as Antonio shrugs off his cloak, Bassanio puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. As Portia appeals to Shylock, he points to the document in her hand. Rogers took on the difficult task of conveying the tension and dynamism of the moment in a static form; the characters convey a range of emotions and relate to one another through animated gestures as Shylock's menacing words hang in the air. Late-nineteenth-century Americans were much more familiar with the works of Shakespeare than we are today, and contemporary writers responded strongly to Rogers' characterizations, offering vivid descriptions of the figures that were familiar to them from their own reading and from the popular stage, particularly the villainous Shylock with his exaggerated features. "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" struck a chord with middle-class Americans. Recommended for teachers and students, it proved to be Rogers' most popular Shakespearean subject and one of the best-selling groups in his entire oeuvre.
Article, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. 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. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 88-9. 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, 193, 246-7, 276, 294, 304. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 176-7.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.