Archive for Virginia
On Christmas Day one dozen decades ago, Hermon A. MacNeil and Carol Louise Brooks were married in Chicago, Illinois. The pair were both sculptors who met while working on the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, better known as the Chicago World’s Fair.
Carol was a student of Lorado Taft and became one of the White Rabbits. These female sculptors were hired (commissioned) to help finish the 100’s of sculptures needed to finish the buildings, fountains, arcades, for the White City of the Chicago Worlds Fair.
Previous postings celebrate this MacNeil-Brooks Wedding:
Here are two examples of Hermon A. Mac Neil’s 1931 Society of Medalists (SOM) Issue #3 entitled “Prayer for Rain” and “Hopi” on the reverse. These show two of the 4 varied patinas that MacNeil chose for the issue. (Thanks to Gilbert Shell for sharing these sources & interesting me in this MacNeil – SOM Issue #3)
The medals are slightly oval in shape. The Obverse, shown here in a striking orange patina, can be seen in the Chrysler Museum of Norfork, Virginia. In his design Hermon MacNeil, has recaptured his 1895 image of the Moqui Runner. The title, PRAYER FOR RAIN, portrays a group of young Hopis sprinting to the right; their hands filled with snakes. The Reverse side, shown in beautiful sea green patina, bears the title, “HOPI,” a more modern transliteration of “Moqui”. It shows a group of Hopi Indian dancers handling ritualistic snakes. It is owned by our webmaster.
In a 2005 article, David T Alexander, a widely published numismatic writer, described 4 different applied patinas that were offered for the 1,713 medals released in this issue. Here is an excerpt of Alexander’s article: (NOTE: In his comments, the usual ‘reverse’ and ‘obverse’ for this medal has been switched by this author.)
1931 #3. HERMON MacNEILL. Hopi Indian Prayer for Rain.
Obv Five Hopi rain dancers, two with snakes in their mouths, one crouching to gather up snakes for return to the cottonwood enclosure set up for the ceremony. Two other dancers distract mouth-held snakes with eagle feathers. MacNeil’s sky is adapted from Hopi sand painting showing stylized rain clouds and serpentine arrows of falling rain.
Incuse HOPI in exergue. Signature H A MACNEIL incuse lower r.
Rev Dancers race from mesa onto the desert, hands full of snakes to be returned to their dens. Lightning flashes above, incuse PRAYER (vertical) FOR RAIN in exergue.
MacNeil, best known to coin collectors for his Standing Liberty Quarter of 1916-1930, wrote, “The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need – water.”
MacNeil described the setting as the Kiva, An underground chamber. Members of the Snake and Antelope clans gathered snakes for six days from the compass points, above and below, “therefore from all the directions of the universe.” Poisonous snakes are included in the dance, distracted from the dancers holding them in their mouths by another dancer wielding an eagle feather. The artist witnessed several snakebites, which had no apparent effect on the exalted, fasting dancers.
MacNeil theorized that the wriggling serpent forms suggested the shape of lightning “snaking” earthward from the clouds, as seen in the sand art above. At the end of the prayer dance, the Indian raced out onto the desert, hands filled with snakes to be released into their dens as a rain cloud forms overhead. This is SOM’s first non-circular medal, showing a boldly ovoid shape. At least four distinctive patinas have been 16 observed on examples of the Hopi medal,
EDGE AND PATINA VARIETIES OBSERVED:
1. THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS THIRD ISSUE. Rounded rims. Light tan, sea green highlights. A.
2. Ditto. Light tan with hints of gold. A.
3. Ditto. Intense glossy hematite red. A.
4. Ditto. Bold sea-green, sharply squared rims. A.
- David T. Alexander, “The Art Medal Defined” in The Medal Collectors of America Advisory, Volume 8, Number 5, May 2005, pp. 10-12. (Thanks to Gilbert Shell for sharing this source and his interest in this SOM Issue #3)
- For more on SOM see: Samuel Pennington, “The Society of Medalists”