St. Louis, Mo.
Statue of Beatrice Cenci (1856)
St. Louis Mercantile Library
Thomas Jefferson Library Building
One University Blvd.
Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908) applied to study anatomy – as preparation for sculpting the human body – at Boston Medical School and other eastern schools and was refused admittance. Wayman Crow, the father of one of her school friends, got her into the Missouri Medical College in St. Louis, where Hosmer lived with his family while she was a student. Crow, a prominent St. Louis businessman, became a lifelong benefactor of Hosmer, and his influence helped obtain important commissions for her. Among her public sculptures in the city are the Senator Thomas Hart Benton statue, Lafayette Park, and “Beatrice Cenci” at the Mercantile Library.
Back in Boston, Hosmer ran with a lesbian crowd, including Charlotte Cushman, the actress and art patron, and her lover, sculptor Emma Stebbins. While touring the country, Cushman was invited to visit the Crows, Hosmer’s second family, and became infatuated with Emma Crow, Wayman’s daughter, addressing her in letters as “my darling little lover,” much to Wayman’s dismay. When Cushman traveled to Rome, Hosmer went with her to study sculpture, writing to her worried benefactor: “I shall keep a sharper lookout on Miss Cushman and not allow her to go on in this serious manner with Emma – it is really dreadful and I am really jealous….” Knowing Wayman would disapprove, Hosmer used the convenient excuse of “keeping a lookout” on Cushman to justify living with her in Rome.
Throughout her life, Hosmer claimed that all she wanted to do was get married, but she never did. In a letter to Wayman, she joked, “I have been searching vainly for Mr. Hosmer.” In 1858, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife visited Hosmer at her studio in Rome, and the writer gave a telling description of her: “She had on a male shirt, collar, and cravat…. She was indeed very queer….”