| Rocky Hill |
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| || RETURNED SOLDIER |
Veterans Home and Hospital
287 West Street
Rocky Hill, CT
Type: Marble group of soldier and girl
Sculptor: Larkin G. Meade, Jr.
Height: 10', 9"
RETURNED SOLDIER, Veterans Home and Hospital, Rocky Hill, is significant historically because it is an early (1867) example of classical sculpture related to the Civil War. The patron of the sculpture, philanthropist Benjamin Fitch, according to apocryphal account, saw its original version while visiting in Florence in 1865, and commissioned a duplicate. (What happened to the original is unknown, and explanation of why such a subject-specific work had already been commissioned by another is also unknown.) Fitch brought the sculpture to the grounds of Fitch's Home For The Soldiers, which he founded in the Noroton section of Darien through an act of the General Assembly in 1864. It was placed in front of the chapel.
In 1938, when the Noroton institution was deactivated and the Rocky Hill facility constructed, the statue was moved to the veterans' section of Spring Grove Cemetery on Hecker Avenue in Darien. (See VETERANS MEMORIAL FLAGPOLE , Darien.) In 1985 it was restored and erected at Rocky Hill. The restoration included repair/replacement of a fragmented hand and part of the uniform, and cleaning. Since 1985 RETURNED SOLDIER has accumulated noticeable grime, and the process of marble sugaring continues at an alarming pace.
RETURNED SOLDIER, Rocky Hill, is significant artistically because it is an example of mid-19th-century work done in Italy by an American sculptor. It exhibits the modeling and skill nurtured in Florence for classical sculpture, usually devoted to allegorical themes and timeless truths. However, the American preference for reality is strongly apparent in the subject matter and treatment of this sculpture. It is an early example of classical sculpture modified by American realism.
The story line describing the scene in the Veterans Home fact sheet seems appropriate: "...a returned cavalry officer, in a sitting posture, with a child on his knee, an orphan to whom the soldier is depicting the battle field, and apparently describing the scenes that he witnessed--probably the death of her own father and possibly bringing a dying message from his comrade (her father)."
The sculptor, Larkin Goldsmith Meade, Jr. (1835-1910), was born to a distinguished New Hampshire family. He became familiar with Civil War subjects as an illustrator of wartime scenes for Harper's Weekly during the war. His other works include Ethan Allen in Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, and a heroic figure of Vermont on that state's Capitol.
RETURNED SOLDIER, Rocky Hill, is a sculpture in white Carrara marble of a cavalry officer returned from the war holding a girl on his left knee. Placed in Darien in 1867, it has been sited since 1985 on a broad expanse of lawn inside the front gateway at the Rocky Hill Veterans Home and Hospital.
The 1985 base is a rough-faced dark gray granite ashlar pier with plain projecting cornice of lighter gray granite. A 2 1/2"-thick piece of marble, not the same stone as the statue but the same size and shape as the bottom of the statue, is between the granite and the sculpture.
The seated soldier holds a girl on his left knee. His right foot is forward, with the toe extending beyond the base. His cavalry boots come to his knees. He wears both a coat with wide lapels and a cape thrown back over his shoulders. Sword at his left hip extends forward over the front edge, balancing the position of his right leg. The soldier has moustache but no hat. His head is bent forward and down toward the girl, whom he encircles with his left arm. His right hand is outstretched, as though gesturing, above his right knee.
The hem of the barefoot girl's dress comes to her ankles. Her left hand is on the soldier's right lapel; her right hand is at her own left shoulder. Her face is held up to within an inch or two of the soldier's; her hair falls to her shoulders.
Bottom of statue, left side, incised u.c. & l.c.:L.G. Meade, Jr. / Florence. 1867.
"Civil War-era statue, cannons, find a home in Rocky Hill," The [New Britain] Herald, August 7, 1985, il.
Darien Historical Society newsletter, Summer 1984 and Autumn 1985.
Fact sheet. Rocky Hill Veterans Home and Hospital.
Stamford Review, feature page on Fitch Home, May 27, 1923.