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~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

DO YOU walk by MacNeil Statues and NOT KNOW IT ???


The Mysterious “Agnese” by Hermon MacNeil


History books record it.    ~~~    Public records document it.

~~~    But have you ever seen it?

Hermon MacNeils bust titled “Agnese” as pictured in Lorado Taft’s “History of American Sculpture” in 1904.

In his 1904 book “The History of American Sculpture,” Lorado Taft reviews various works by our favorite sculptor ~~ Hermon A. MacNeil.  Taft mentions:

“Two busts of women modelled by him are among the finest works yet produced by an American. Herbert Adams alone has surpassed the ” Agnese ” (Fig. 72), which was done in Rome from a patrician beauty, and exhibited at Buffalo in 1901. ” Beatrice,” a later work, is no less beautiful in execution, though somewhat strained in pose. These busts illustrate the artistic conscience of the sculptor, his delight as well as his skill in pure modelling. Earnest and industrious, he is blessed with a continuity of energy which counts for more than paroxysms of effort.”   (p.445.)

Taft mentions that the “Agnese” was exhibited in the  1901 Pan American Exhibition (Buffalo World’s Fair). The image (Fig 72 in Taft’s book) may have come from that exhibition. We do not know the source of this image that Taft used.  Nor over a century later, do we know of other images of “Agnese.”

This sculpture appears“Mysterious” in many ways.

  • her smile seems both beguiling and alluring;
  • the picture shows a sculpted bust that appears to stare unnervingly at the viewer;
  • the stark, overhead lighting heightens or creates the sense of a stare;
  • the background gives no hint of a context, a place, or any identifying features;
  • her mysterious smile seems to imply a knowledge not shared with the viewer;
  • the letters “AGNESE” on the corner of the base offer the only identity, yet itself a still a mystery.

Questions that remain in this stage of research include:

  • What is the composition of this statue? Marble? Paster?  Other?
  • Why can we find no other pictures of this piece?
  • Was there only an Original “Agnese” and no other copies?
  • What was the fate of this statue?
  • Is “Agnese” in private hands?
  • Does she still exist?

Other than that, I have NO questions!

Related Images:


  1. webmaster says:

    Since posting this story several years ago, I discovered the history of this piece.
    Hermon MacNeil retained it in his own possession. The documentation for this is found in his Autobiographical Sketch written in1943. There he lists forty-two entries of works completed in is life time. The sixth line of entries reads follows:
    “Agnese. Portrait Bust, owned by the Artist, 1898”

    Mystery solved, at least in part.
    Possibly, four of the seven questions asked in the story above are answered in this finding.

    Dan Leininger

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Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

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