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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Matthew Fontaine Maury

This bronze bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806–1873) after the 1869 plaster original by Edward Valentine stands in the Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Virginia. The National Portrait Gallery discusses their 1978 cast of Valentine's sculpture this way,
"Matthew Maury was one of the leading nautical thinkers of his day. His pioneering efforts at charting the winds and currents of the world’s oceans helped to make oceanography a practical science. With the start of hostilities in the spring of 1861, Maury resigned his post as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and offered his services to the Confederate government.

In Richmond, Maury set to work upon the development of underwater torpedoes. Others before him had experimented with such electrically charged devices, but Maury was the first American to use them successfully in battle. Their effectiveness was attested to by Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles, who reported to Congress after the war that the federal navy 'had lost more vessels from Confederate torpedoes than from all other causes combined.'

Maury sat for the original plaster version of his portrait by the Richmond sculptor Edward Valentine over a period of four days. After its completion in February 1869, the artist declared it the best likeness he had ever modeled." -- National Portrait Gallery
The bust is labeled with this bronze plaque.

 Matthew Fontaine Maury
"Pathfinder of the Seas"
Born 1806
Spottsylvania County, Virginia
Edward V. Valentine
After the Original from Life
in the Valentine Museum

This 1859 engraving of Maury appears in Charles Lee Lewis's 1927 book Matthew Fontaine Maury, the Pathfinder of the Seas.

Copy of an engraving of Maury Which Hangs In the Superintendent's Office at the United States Naval Observatory

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