Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Navigate Up
Sign In
  • American Skippet
    American Skippet
  • General Josiah Harmar
    General Josiah Harmar
  • Hong Punch Bowl
    Hong Punch Bowl
  • Barter for a Bride
    Barter for a Bride
  • Chinese Export Porcelain Openwork Basket with Pitt Armorial
    Chinese Export Porcelain Openwork Basket with Pitt Armorial
  • Artist/MakerDallin, Cyrus Edwin (1861-1944)
  • Date Madeca. 1916-1920
  • Place MadeUSA: Rhode Island, Providence by Gorham Manufacturing Company
  • MaterialsMetals; Bronze with brown patina
  • Measurements21 1/2"h. x 15"w. x 20 1/2"l.
  • Gift of Mr. Philip L. Poe
  • RoomThe Walter Thurston Gentlemen's Lounge
  • Accession #1965.0046

Appeal to the Great Spirit

Dallin was born in Springville, Utah Territory, which his parents had helped found.[l]  His playmates were Indian boys from nearby encampments; he later recalled that he often modeled little figures of animals from clay from along the riverbanks with them.  When he determined to make sculpture his life's work, he went east for instruction, first in Boston and, in 1888, in Paris. While studying with Henri-Michel Chapu at the Académie Julian, he was taught to depict mythological subjects in the classical mode, but all of that was discarded when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show visited Paris in 1889, captivating the French who thronged to see it.  The sight of an Indian once again so thrilled Dallin that it set him on the course of his most important work: the ennobling of the Indian in bronze monuments.    Success came immediately when he created the first of four great Indian equestrian statues, the much-praised Signal for Peace, modeled in Paris.  A few years later came the somber but dramatic Medicine Man (1900), described by Dallin as gravely warning his people about the intrusions of the whites into their lands.[2]  The third of the series, The Protest, representing the Indians' decision to take to the warpath, was shown at the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, but it was never put into permanent material.  
The final statue in the series, Appeal to the Great Spirit, was modeled in Dallin's Boston studio in 1907–08.  The plaster version was shown to great acclaim at the National Sculpture Society's exhibition of 1908 in Baltimore and the following year at the annual Salon in Paris, where it was awarded a gold medal.  It was cast in bronze in Paris and, in 1912, was erected in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
As a boy, Dallin had observed the woeful fate of the Indians.  His family had lived in peace with them, but he knew about the Indian Wars of the 1860s and 1870s and of the tribes' relocation to reservations.  Dallin respected the Native American; his series is a tragic tale, sympathetically told.
In Appeal to the Great Spirit, the noble Ute warrior—after the attempt at peaceful coexistence failed and after defeat in battle—casts his eyes to the heavens and raises his arms in supplication to the Great Spirit to save his people and their way of life from extinction.
There is a strong, bold naturalism in the rendering of the muscular, nearly nude figure of the solemn chieftain.  He sits upon a pony of exactly the same type photographed during John Wesley Powell's exploring expedition through Ute territory in 1873–74.[4]  The authenticity of details such as the horse and warbonnet has been verified by ethnologists who have studied the history of the Ute peoples.
Dallin's contract with the MFA gave him the right to make and sell reproductions of the Appeal so long as they did not exceed thirty inches in height.  The sculptor knew he had a work of enormous popularity and, in 1915, he signed an agreement with the firm of P. P. Caproni, a Boston manufacturer of plaster reproductions.  Caproni produced and marketed small-scale versions of this and other of Dallin's Indian subjects by the thousands.[5]  In 1916, Dallin completed a contract with Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, to make bronze replicas in three sizes—one less than nine inches in height, one slightly over twenty inches, and the third about thirty-seven inches high.  The version in the Collection is of the middle size, one of 109 copies cast by Gorham.[6]  The casting is of an especially fine quality and has a rich brown patina.  The date "1913," inscribed on the base, refers to the year in which Dallin modeled the original of this size; the Collection's version was probably cast within a few years of the date Dallin entered into the contract with the Gorham foundry, ca. 1916–20.
Wayne Craven
1. For the basic study on Dallin, see Francis.
2. The original bronze version of the Medicine Man now stands in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.  It won a silver medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900.  See Sculpture of a City, 210.
3. The best study of the Appeal to the Great Spirit is in Greenthal et al., 268–78.
4. See Report of Special Commissioners: J. W. Powell and G.W. Ingalls on the Condition of the Ute Indian in Utah (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1874).  Dallin would have been twelve or thirteen years old at the time of Powell's expeditions, and his memories of Indian life in his native area are verified and illustrated in Powell's reports.
5. Caproni 1915, 8; Caproni 1894, 228.
6. Other versions of the twenty-inch-tall bronze statuettes, bearing the same inscription and date as the Collection's example, are in the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey; the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming.