Nathan Hale

Copied Frederick MacMonnies, Nathan Hale, 1890, bronze, 28 149 346 14 in. (71.924.715.8 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum in honor of George Gurney, Curator Emeritus, 2012.5
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Artwork Details

Nathan Hale
28 149 346 14 in. (71.924.715.8 cm)
Signature and date on proper left side of base: F. MacMonnies 1890 Also, a foundry stamp at the proper right, back, top of the base: FONDEURS / A / PARIS/ 10 & 12 / JA BOEUF & ROUARD / R. de L' Asile popincourt
Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum in honor of George Gurney, Curator Emeritus
Mediums Description
  • Occupation — military — soldier
  • History — United States — Revolution
  • Portrait male — Hale, Nathan — full length
Object Number

Artwork Description

Nathan Hale (17551776), a teacher from Connecticut, fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The British hanged the twenty-one-year-old soldier as a spy after he had infiltrated their lines in New York. Just before his death, Hale allegedly uttered the now famous words: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Frederick MacMonnies portrayed Hale as a young American martyr. He stands with his shoulders thrust back and his head lifted slightly, even though his feet and arms are bound with rope. The sculpture’s rough surface and lack of finish originally drew criticism but reflected MacMonnies's formal training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His original nine-foot-high bronze sculpture of Hale was erected at City Hall Park in New York in 1893, where it stands today. This smaller sculpture is one of several models that MacMonnies produced.
Luce Object Quote
"I wanted to make something that would set the bootblacks and little clerks around here thinking, something that would make them want to be somebody and find life worth living." The artist, quoted in The Art Commission and the Municipal Art Society Guide to Manhattan's Outdoor Sculpture, May 1888