Will o' the Wisp

  • Harriet Hosmer, Will o' the Wisp, modeled 1858, marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1987.3

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.

Will o' the Wisp
modeled 1858
On View
32 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 17 in. (82.5 x 42.5 x 43.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase

Mediums Description
  • Fantasy – winged being
  • Animal – reptile – turtle
  • Animal – bird
  • Object – other – torch
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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