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Il Penseroso

1866 Joseph Mozier Born: Burlington, Vermont 1812 Died: Faido, Switzerland 1870 marble 68 31/4 x 21 1/4 x 22 1/4 in. (173.4 x 54.0 x 56.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Capitol XX75 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, W310

Luce Center Quote

Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure, Sober, steadfast, and demure, All in a robe of darkest grain, Flowing with majestic train, And sable stole of cypress lawn, Over thy decent shoulders drawn: Come, but keep thy wonted state, With even step, and musing gait, And looks commencing with the skies, Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes: There held in holy passion still, Forget thyself to marble, till With a sad leaden downward cast Thou fix them on the earth as fast.

From John Milton's Il Penseroso (1632)

Luce Center Label

Joseph Moziers sculpture is based on the allegorical figure of Melancholy from John Milton's 1632 poem Il Penseroso. Milton's central character, the Thinker, embodies both the black melancholy that afflicts its victims with depression and the golden melancholy that inspires poets. Melancholy is both male and female, dark and light. Mozier's mentor, the American sculptor Hiram Powers, had changed the allegorical figures gender for a statue titled La Penserosa, and the younger man modeled his work after Powers's version. Research has not determined why he gave this work the male title. Mozier's figure wears classical robes symbolizing the brighter muse of melancholy, whose gifts inspired the poets of Greece and Rome. She keeps her wonted state, gazing to the skies rather than looking to the corrupt earth with leaden downward cast.


Dress - historic - classical dress

Figure female - full length

Literature - Milton - Penserosoo

State of being - mood - meditation


stone - marble

About Joseph Mozier

Born: Burlington, Vermont 1812 Died: Faido, Switzerland 1870

More works in the collection by
Joseph Mozier

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