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Bas-Relief Bronzes at Gettysburg
When one examines the monuments at Gettysburg, keep in mind, that for the most part, these were placed on the battlefield by the survivors. These veterans, wanted to leave future generations a record of their accomplishments. Many monuments include not only their survivors' losses at Gettysburg but a brief history of the unit. This would often include where the unit was from, the battles they participated in, etc. But often found on the monuments are historical images in bronze (many examples are also in granite), presented in a bas-relief. The intention of these small works of art was to remember an event that took place during the battle or to invoke emotion to the viewer. I have selected only a few to share with you. Please, when on the field, stop and study these. They are full of great detail and often historical significance. But also view them as a works of art.
Bas-Relief (pronounced bah ree-leef)
A French term from the Italian basso relievo (“low relief”)
Bas-relief is a method of sculpting that involves carving or removing a material, or the addition of materials to the top of a smooth surface. It is a process in which the subjects are slightly more prominent than the background.
A good example of this concept is a coin.
Where more than 50% of the most rounded or cylindrical elements such as heads, legs or other objects project from the background, these would be considered “alto rilievo” or more commonly known as “high relief.”
Above an example of "low relief"
62nd New York Infantry Monument
sculptor Byron Pickett
Above an example of "high relief"
2nd New York Cavalry Monument
sculptor Karl Gerhardt
Although many of the examples on the battlefield are marked with the sculptors autograph or intials many are un-marked. Also many times one can find the foundry that cast the bronze bas relief as well as a date of manufacture. Take the time to look for these features.
See the following examples. Most often the autograph of the sculptor as well as foundry marks are located on the lower corners...but not always!12th New Jersey Infantry Monument
Sculptor: Beattie & Brooks
(lower left corner of bronze)
12th New Jersey Infantry Monument
Cast by the Henry Bonnard Bronze Co.
New York 1892
(lower right corner of bronze)
The complete bronze bas-relief located on the 12th New Jersey Infantry Monument.
The bas-relief depicts the burning of the Bliss Farm on July 3rd, 1863 that was located between the northern and southern lines.
Please see Battlefield Guide Elwood Christ's book: The Struggle for the Bliss Farm at Gettysburg for further details on the event portrayed in the bronze.
Several Examples at Gettysburg:
Please note in these works of art the great detail of both the subject and also the equipment used by the soldier. Remember, these were originaly created in clay by the sculptor and then cast in bronze over 100 years ago!
21st PA Cavalry Monument
Sculptor of the 21st Pa Cavalry bas-relief is Edwin Elwell (autograph above). Elwell's most dramatic work at Gettysburg is the Hancock equestrian located on East Cemetery Hill.
6th New York Cavalry Monument
James E. Kelly was the sculptor of the 6th New York Monument (see his autograph above). Kelly was also the sculptor of the John Buford monument located on the Chambersburg Pike.
9th New York Cavalry Monument
Sculptor Caspar Buberl would sculpt the 9th New York Cavalry bas-relief. As with most of Buberl's bas-relief work at Gettysburg, they are unsigned.
Two of his larger (and signed) works are the 4th New York Light Artillery and the 111th New York Infantry monuments.
86th New York Infantry
Many feel one of the most touching monuments on the battlefield is that of the 86th New York Infantry. It reminds one of the sacrifices made by the families at home. Under the figures is written "I yield him unto his country and his god."
Sculptor S.J. O'Kelly produced this wonderful bronze although it is un-signed.
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