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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

John O'Donnell

This 1978 statue of Captain John O'Donnell by Tylden Westcott Streett stands in Canton Square in Baltimore, Maryland. The attached plaque reads:
Captain John O’Donnell, the founder of the Canton Community, was a man of great vision and accomplishment. He initiated trade between Canton, China and Baltimore in 1785 operating his own merchant sailing vessels. This public square once the site of the Canton Market is dedicated in his honor.
An historical marker at his tomb in Westminster Burying Ground calls him "A Swashbuckling Merchant":
"Irish-born adventurer John O’Donnell (1749–1805) was a native of Limerick who made his way to India as a youth. He sailed into Baltimore on a late summer day in 1785 aboard a ship laden with Chinese goods, thus opening Baltimore’s trade with the Far East. Armed with a small fortune and an aristocratic lineage, O'Donnell settled down, made a handsome profit on his cargo, and soon married, Sarah Chew Elliott, the daughter of a Fells Point seas captain.
 Over the next 20 years, O’Donnell helped transform Baltimore from a promising town of some 12,000 into the young republic's third largest city. He created a plantation, 'Canton,' on some two thousands of acres east of Baltimore, built wharves, warehouses and rowhouses, and represented local interests in the state legislature. When he died in 1805 at age 56, O’Donnell was among the nation’s wealthiest men, his real estate holdings alone later valued at more than $500,000"

Liveauctioneers offered Streett's plaster model of this statue for sale in 2013. The suggested price was between $1,000 and $2,000. 

“Created by Tylden Streett, this painted plaster sculptural figure was done as a full-size mock-up for the bronze monument located in Canton a the corner of O'Donnell Street and South Curley Street, Baltimore, Maryland; H-97"” -- liveauctioneers.
The leopard spotted pants give this model its comical aspect.
Captain and Mrs. O'Donnell were interred in this tomb in the Westminster Burying Ground.

The historical marker describes the vault this way.
"The O’Donnell vault is a 'cross between a large sarcophagus and a small temple' (Alexander, 1974). Blending elements of the newly fashionable Egyptian orders with Rosicrucian symbols, is probably the earliest of several vaults designed by the French architect Maximilian Godefroy.

Mrs. John O’Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott)
by Charles Wilson Peale, oil on canvas, 1787
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Gift of Mrs. Frank Batten

Captain John O'Donnell
(as above)


Streett's statue of John O'Donnell has been removed because O'Donnell was an enslaver.  

John Edelson of the Canton Community Association put it this way to WBAL:
“We heard from dozens of folks who live in the community, who own homes, who have said they feel unwelcome, offended oppressed, unsafe around this foreboding statue to a man who indisputably owned other human beings as slaves,” 

 The Mayor's Press Release called the statue “the hostile vestige to the notorious enslaver Captain John O’Donnell.” 

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