"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

George G. Meade

This 1915-1925 monument to George G. Meade by Charles Grafly sits in front of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. Grafly was known for his over the top symbolism; this is considered a more restrained example of his work.  The Smithsonian describes the memorial this way:
"[A] cylindrical sculpture with the figure of General George Meade on one side and the winged figure of War on the opposite side of a circle, which is formed with six allegorical figures standing side by side. The allegorical figures represent Loyalty, Chivalry, Fame, Progress, Military Courage, and Energy, qualities the artist believed were necessary for the character of a great general. The male figure of Loyalty, on Meade's proper right, and the female figure of Chivalry, on his proper left, remove the general's military cloak, symbolic of the 'cloak of battle' that the general leaves behind. Over the general's head, Loyalty holds up a wreath and garlands, symbolic of the general's accomplishments. On the general's proper right, behind the figure of Loyalty, is the female figure of Fame in the middle position supported by the male figure of Energy. On the general's proper left, behind the figure of Chivalry, is the male figure of Progress in the middle position, and behind him is the male figure of Military Courage locking arms with the male figure of War at the center rear position. The winged figure of War is flanked by two memorial tablets. General Meade is represented as the embodiment of all six allegorical qualities as he emerges from his cloak of battle and progresses into his future. At the top of the monument is a gold finial with the state seal of Pennsylvania." -- Smithsonian Institution
Charles Grafly Sc.

 The eagle in a wreath motif refers to the headquarters flag of the Army of the Potomac.Devereaux D. Cannon comments on this:

 A notable exception to the rule {that headquarters flags were National Flags with added devices} was the headquarters flag adopted for the Army of the Potomac by Gen. George G. Meade on May 2, 1864. That flag was a “magenta-colored swallow-tailed flag, with an eagle in gold, surrounded by a silver wreath for an emblem.” The war artist A. R. Waud recorded that, when General Grant first saw this flag, he exclaimed, “What's this! Is Imperial Caesar anywhere about here?” -- The Flags of the Union, 1994.
In this photo of the east side of the monument, we see, from left to right, Loyalty peeking over Meade's left shoulder, Major General George G. Meade, Chivalry removing the cloak of battle, Progress standing right behind her with his hand on her thigh, and behind him Military Courage.

In this photo of the west side of the monument, we see from left to right Energy, Fame, Loyalty and General Meade.


And, on the North side of the  Monument, is The winged Angel of War.

The Angel of War flanked by Military Courage and Energy

Energy with the Angel of War (and a pair of sneakers)

Military Courage and the Angel of War

When the monument was accepted by President Coolidge on October 19, 1927 it sat at the east end of the mall north and west of the Grant memorial, then on the grounds of the Botanic Garden. It had been in the works 12 years. In the Harris & Ewing photograph (LOC), below, a sailor adjusts the veil over the statue while Henrietta  Meade, the General's 74 year old daughter, looks on.

When Miss Meade unveiled the Statue,  a flock of pigeons symbolizing peace flew out of the box sitting on the alter in front of the statue carrying the emblem of the Army of the Potomac. (See, President Accepts Meade Memorial in Behalf of Country , The Washington Post, Oct. 27, 1927.)

Henrietta Meade and Ulysses S. Grant III at the dedication of the Meade Monument.(LOC)

The memorial was dismantled in 1969 to make way for construction of the 3rd Street Tunnel carrying I 395 under the mall. It was put in storage. The capitol reflecting pool covers the original location. In 1983 the statue was repaired and reassembled on its current site on Pennsylvania Avenue.  (See Back in Place, The Washington Post, August, 17, 1983)

The Angel of War

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