Saturday, March 03, 2007

Edie Sedgwick's great aunt with badger

Andy Warhol elevated Edie Sedgwick to her 15 minutes of fame, but it was the state of Wisconsin that raised her great aunt to immortality atop our state capitol dome, where she presides in 22-carat gold-gilded glory with a badger on her head. This photo from the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society shows the statue being raised in 1914. (Click on photo to enlarge and get a better view of the badger.) The real name of the Daniel Chester French statue is "Wisconsin," but locally she's often misidentified as "Miss Forward," probably because "Forward" is the state motto. Madison writer Jay Rath provides more information about Sedgwick's great aunt Edith Minturn Phelps Stokes and her connection with the statue at his blog The Rath of Madison.
"Wisconsin" was created by Massachusetts sculptor Daniel Chester French. The setting for his most famous work can be seen on the back of every penny; French sculpted the figure of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial at Washington, D.C.

Edith posed for French's 65-foot statue of the "Republic" at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. It became the model for the statue on top of our capitol.

Edith was a New York socialite, heir to a shipping fortune. She would have been 24 when she posed for French. She later married millionaire Isaac Stokes, an historian, social reformer and leader in the Beaux Arts movement. At their wedding, the Rev. William Rainsford said, "I have known one or two women as beautiful; one or two women as interesting; one or two women as spiritual; but for the combination of the three I have never known her equal."
I've always loved this photo. There's something comically touching about the workmen carefully, almost reverently maneuvering the gigantic, classically sculpted female figure with that absurd badger nested in its hair. It's probably just as well for our state image, however, that the badger is scarcely visible from street level.

1 comment:

Dr. Know said...

How quaint.
At least you're not in this red state - where they elect badgers.