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Will o' the Wisp

modeled 1858 Harriet Hosmer Born: Watertown, Massachusetts 1830 Died: Watertown, Massachusetts 1908 marble 32 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 17 in. (82.5 x 42.5 x 43.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1987.3 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


Luce Center Label

Harriet Hosmer created Will o’ the Wisp as a companion piece to the highly successful statue of Puck, the bawdy clown from Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Will o’ the Wisp is based on the folktale of a fairy who turns into a phosphorescent glow, covering the marshes at night to mislead travelers. The pointed ears and horns allude to his mischievous character, and his bat wings and the owl atop his head refer to his nocturnal nature. The torch cradled in his right arm symbolizes his ability to assume a glowing form. Despite its appeal, Will o’ the Wisp---nicknamed “my daughter” by the artist---was not as popular as Puck.

Keywords

Animal - bird

Animal - reptile - turtle

Animal - reptile - turtle

Fantasy - winged being

Object - other - torch

sculpture

stone - marble

About Harriet Hosmer

Born: Watertown, Massachusetts 1830 Died: Watertown, Massachusetts 1908

More works in the collection by
Harriet Hosmer