In 2016, Worcester Art Museum received a grant from the American Art Program for three collections-based exhibitions focused on pre-contemporary American art that has long gone unseen and is need of conservation. The first exhibition, completed last year, centered around two memorial windows by stained-glass masters John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The museum has recently begun work on the central piece of the second grant-funded exhibition, a life-size marble sculpture by Edward Augustus Brackett titled “Shipwrecked Mother and Child.” The daunting first step, chronicled in an article in Worcester's Telegram & Gazette, required moving the 1,500-pound statue through underground corridors, over a specially-constructed bridge, and up to the third-floor restoration lab after languishing in the museum basement for 80 years.
Recently, the staff at Worcester Art Museum faced a dilemma: How do you move a rhinoceros?
The move needed to be done slowly and safely so the huge 1,500-pound marble statue — about the same weight as an adult rhinoceros — would not be damaged as it was wheeled and hoisted out of storage in the museum basement to the third-floor Jeppson Idea Lab, where a restoration project is set to begin.
The statue, “Shipwrecked Mother and Child” by Edward Augustus Brackett, was relegated to the basement about 80 years ago for unknown reasons. The sculpture, of Vermont marble, is dirty and stained and missing some parts. The cleaning and the replacement of those parts is expected to take 12 to 18 months, after which the sculpture will go on permanent view in the museum.
The statue of a drowned, or perhaps merely exhausted, woman and a baby is being roused from its resting place in the basement thanks to a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The multiyear grant supports precontemporary American artworks that have been languishing in storage or needed conservation before they could be put on display.