Chauncey Bradley Ives was both a prolific and a very successful American sculptor who worked in the Neo-Classical manner that flourished from the mid to late 19th century. Ives played a significant role in making American sculpture popular. Trained in Rome and influenced by such iconic Neo-Classical sculptors as Hiram Powers, Ives is best remembered for his marble portrait busts. Although by the 1870's the Neo-Classical movement in sculpture was beginning to wane, it is a compelling fact that the popularity of Ives continued. Neither his production nor his commissions diminished or suffered to any great degree. The sculptures of Ives reflected the tastes of his generation. His works stand as a highpoint in the history of America’s cultural achievements during the Victorian age.
In an exhibition presented by Elizabeth Ives Bartholet, a plaster of this work was exhibited and thought to be a bust of either Merrick or Merritt Ives who were sons of Chauncey. It would have been natural for Ives to want to model one of his sons and perhaps have represented it as a bust of youth to potential clients. This work was done prior to 1851 when he moved permanently to Rome. The bust is marvelous in its simplicity of presentation which reinforces the innocence of a boy of this age. The way the smock is off the shoulders and the curls fall naturally one finds this pleasingly informal and natural.
It is also interesting to note that the son Ives has depicted here was also the model for his work titled Beggar Boy which was sculpted in 1874 as well. It has been noted that Gerald Merrick Ives was the model for Beggar Boy by Elizabeth Ives Bartholet, a descendant of Ives who held some of his records. If that is the case, then this bust would be of Merrick as well.
Private Collection, MA