Via di S. Nicola da Tolentino, 7, 00187 Roma RM
Campo Cestio Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
Anne Florence Freeman (January 14, 1836 – August 7, 1883) was an American sculptor. Freeman is compared by some to Hilda in The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A good friend of Harriet Hosmer's, Freeman took a studio next door to Edmonia Lewis, at Via San Nicolò Tolentino, 7, Rome.
Freeman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, daughter of Peter Wilder Freeman (1809-1869) and Frances Ann Dorr (1810-1888). After studying with Richard Saltonstall Greenough, she went to Italy in 1861 under the aegis of Charlotte Cushman, and studied for one year in Florence with Hiram Powers. In 1862 she opened a studio, where she spent her professional life. Florence Freeman was a young relative of James Edward Freeman and Horatia Augusta Latilla Freeman, both artists, who also lived in Rome. She executed several bas-reliefs of Dante; a bust of Sandalphon; "The Sleeping Child"; "Thekla, or the Tangled Skein"; and several chimneypieces, one of which, "Children and the Yule Log and Fireside Spirits," was at the Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia (1876).
Florence (also called Flori) was a good friend of sculptress Harriet Hosmer, as well as many other artists then residing in Italy including Emma Stebbins, Margaret Foley, John Tilton, Edmonia Lewis and Anne Whitney.
In 1866 the Englishman Henry Wreford, a freelance correspondent in Italy, described the female artists in Rome collectively as “a fair constellation . . . of twelve stars of greater or lesser magnitude, who shed their soft and humanising influence on a profession which has done so much for the refinement and civilization of man.” Some of Wreford’s twelve stars, incidentally all American sculptors, are still recognizable names even today: Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis, and Emma Stebbins. Less known now are the American painter sisters Mary Elizabeth and Abigail Osgood Williams, the Italian sculptor Horatia Augusta Latilla Freeman and her relative, the painter Adah Caroline Latilla, Irish painter and sculptor Jane Morgan, and English sculptor Isabel Cholmelay (her studio was at Palazzetto Sciarra). It is not entirely clear which of these women produced art of “greater magnitude” in Wreford’s mind; his discussion is rather general overall. Indeed, in his article and in others of the period, even the better-known women tend to earn more comments about their personalities, appearances, or behaviors than about their art.
Henry T. Tuckerman, an American writer who lived in Italy, included a brief section on American female sculptors in Rome in his Book of the Artists (1867). In less than five pages, in a volume of more than 600 pages total, he discussed several members of Wreford’s constellation, including Foley, Freeman, Hosmer, Lewis, and Stebbins. He briefly mentioned Sarah Fisher Clampitt Ames, Louisa Lander, Vinnie Ream, and Anne Whitney, though by that date Lander and Ames had returned to the United States and Ream had not yet arrived in Rome. Tuckerman’s description was hardly complementary; he noted that public appreciation of their art seemed to derive from “national deference to and sympathy with the sex” and from a lack of understanding about art in general. Yet even his dismissive analysis shows awareness of and interest in these women and their activities.
In 1867 bad air (literally mal aria) coming from the swampy countryside around Rome—described by a contemporary as a “wondrous waste”—was enough of a concern to be a plot device in Henry James’s Daisy Miller (1878). This, and the threat of cholera, made most foreigners and some native Romans leave town during the hottest months. Hosmer went to Paris on June 29 and Cushman and Stebbins went to England on July 1, while Lewis traveled to Paris, and Florence Freeman to the baths at Lucca; by late June, Foley was still unsure of her destination but she eventually left, too. Even their Italian teacher fled, though she invited her students to join her on the volcanic island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples.
Sandalphon by Florence Freeman
Only one work, a marble bust of Sandalphan, The Angel of Prayer, is presently located (Emma Stebbins also did a sculpture of this subject). The lovely head is set into a carved wreath of flowers, because Sandalphon supposedly captured the sounds of prayers as they were wafted upward from earth and converted them into flowers that perfumed the heavens. Longfellow owned this sculpture, now at Longfellow House, Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as Freeman's ideal statue Indian Musician (unlocated), representing Chiblabos, a character from his poem Hiawatha, "who taught the birds to sing and the brooks to warble". The Art-Journal in March 1866 reported that Chibiabos was depicted with a flute in his left hand "the notes of which are suspended while he listens to the reeds".
In 1871 the Art-Journal reported that the sculptor exhibited several works in her Via Margutta studio, including the chimneypiece Children end Yule Log and Fireside Spirits. In the center relief, children bring in the Yule log, while on either side woodland elves pensively watch the blazing tire, thinking of their lost trees. This work won an honorable mention al the 1878 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
Freeman's Thekla, or the Tangled Skein, showed a sorrowful girl looking despondently at a tangled web of yarn which she has vainly tried to wind. It conveyed a moral about having the patience to untangle life's difficulties.
Freeman died in Rome on August 7, 1883, from consumption (tuberculosis). She was buried there in the Protestant Cemetery. Her younger brother James Goldthwaite Freeman of Boston handled her affairs.
An interesting family coincidence occurred between Florence and the artist William Wetmore Story. While Flori was living in Rome, she socialized with W.W. Story's wife Emelyn, and was known to William as a female sculptor in the city. In May of 1879, she visited with Emelyn, their daughter Edith and Edith's very young children, Cressida (age 2) and Bindo (age 1). In 1900, Mira Cressida Peruzzi de' Medici married her first cousin Edward Henry Eldredge (of Boston). In 1905, Edward's sister Theodora Maria Eldredge married Harris Hooper Lawrence (also of Boston). Harris Hooper Lawrence was the son of Florence Freeman's sister Susan Freeman and Richard Beardsley Lawrence. So young Cressy met her future brother in law's aunt (Florence Freeman) in Rome in 1879.
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