Private Theatricals, Last Moments Behind The Scenes
Overall: 24 x 18 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. ( 61 x 47 x 29.2 cm )
signed: proper left front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: center top back of base: "PAT. JUNE...." inscribed: front of base: "PRIVATE THEATRICALS/LAST MOMENTS BEHIND THE SCENES"
In the 1870s and 1880s Rogers explored two different types of subject matter: genre themes taken from everyday life and scenes from popular plays. In a few groups he combined the two, depicting theatrical amusements in the home. Rogers was a fan of theater in both public and private settings, and home theatricals were a common form of entertainment in the late nineteenth century. He had offered numerous depictions of children at play, and in this scene adults entertain themselves by putting on their own play, in both senses of the word. According to Rogers' description of Private Theatricals, a man and a woman are dressed for a play set in the period of Louis XIII. They are making their last preparations before they take the "stage," in this case, probably a parlor in a private home (likely decorated with a Rogers group). The woman, said to be modeled after Rogers' sister Laura, takes a last glance at her lines, and the man applies burnt cork to her face to accentuate her eyebrows. Private Theatricals heralds a period of great technical achievement in Rogers' work. In the late 1870s and 1880s he attempted ever more complicated compositions and demonstrated his growing mastery of his medium with greater detail in textures. In this group, texture and ornamentation run riot; nearly every surface is covered in delicate, carefully inscribed pattern. Rogers pointed out that the actors' attire was inspired by the seventeenth century, and he may have chosen the period as an opportunity to showcase his talents at rendering lavish fabrics. The woman's dress is covered with sinuously curving flowers, and the broad collar of her dress is delicate lace. The man's cavalier costume is even more exotic: decorative medallions project from the surface of the fabric, his full sleeves are covered with bows, and his hat bears a finely rendered feather. Even his flaring boots bear a punched pattern around the cuffs. The table between them is covered by a small still life of makeup accessories, a mirror, and a fan. This would have been enough to demonstrate Rogers' ability to create crisp and convincing detail, but he seemed to revel in virtuoso touches and went further still, modeling the lovely vignette of herons in the grass applied to the triangular table base and the grotesquely fantastical creatures that crawl down its corners. The artist could not leave even the floor bare but covered it with an animal skin rug, likely that of a cat, which includes its head. In a sly comic touch, its eyes roll up as if it, too, is enjoying the scene.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 4, New York Historical Society. "Personal," Harper's Weekly, June 29, 1878, p. 507. 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. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.86-7. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 144, 244, 295-6, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 166-7.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.