Mead Curator Reveals Painting in Museum’s Collection as Allegory Against ‘Slave Power’ on Oct. 1

September 21, 2009
Contact: Karen Cardinal
Accounting, Web and Marketing Manager, MeadArt Museum
413/542-2551

AMHERST, Mass.– Randall Griffey, curator of American Art at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum, has found much more than meets the eye in William Rimmer’s Massacre of the Innocents (ca. 1858), a key painting in the Mead’s collection and currently on view in the museum. Griffey will present his findings on the piece in a free public lecture on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m. in the museum’s William Green Study Room. He will make the same presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Popular American Culture Conference in November.

“What appears initially to be a mildly unusual depiction of a well-known Biblical subject from the Book of Matthew turns out to have served as a powerful statement against the political influence of southern, slave-holding states in the months preceding the Civil War,” said Griffey, of Massacre. Research has revealed that the artist, who was living in Milton, Mass., when he completed his piece, utilized the story of Herod’s massacre to allude allegorically to the adverse effects of this so-called “slave power.” “Anti-slavery activists emphasized that ‘slave power’ flourished at the expense of American civilization, and Rimmer’s painting sends a parallel message using abolitionist symbolism,” Griffey added.

Rimmer (1816–1879) was a prominent American painter, sculptor and teacher. He is perhaps best known to museum-goers for his monumental Falling Gladiator in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Artists know him for his popular technical manuals Art Anatomy and Elements of Design.

The MeadArt Museum houses the art collection of AmherstCollege, totaling more than 16,000 works. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Mead participates in museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. During the academic term, the museum is open Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to midnight, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, please visit the museum’s Web site, www.amherst.edu/museums/mead, or call 413/542-2335.

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Contact

Peter Rooney
Director of Public Affairs
(413) 542-2321
prooney@amherst.edu