May 17, 2011

King Philip sculpted unstereotypically

Note how much care and effort this sculptor put into his portrayal of King Philip:

Mattapoisett Statue Honors Metacomet

By Laura Fedak PedulliThe 20-pound bronze head took Mr. Englund six months to complete, and the sculptor created a proud, angular face with high cheekbones and thin lips. Mr. Englund noted that representations of Metacomet often are ugly or unattractive, although his sculpture is a more dignified face of a man known for his bravery and ability to escape from colonist attacks. In the end, it was Captain Benjamin Church–with the help of Christianity-converted “Praying Indian” John Alderman–who killed Metacomet. His head was mounted on a pike and transported to Plymouth, where it stood for more than 20 years, Mr. Englund said.

“I wonder if I had been here [as a Wampanoag], whether I would have passed on defiance or acquiesce," mused Mr. Englund.

Details in Mr. Englund's sculpture are the product of his own research into the rise and fall of Metacomet. The feathers are pulled back on his head because Metacomet had worn them that way to avoid detection, Mr. Englund explained. Also, Metacomet is wearing a necklace of wolf teeth, another indicator of his bravery. In Metacomet's ear is a silver wire with a single earring attached, made from seashell. As a substance, seashell was so important to the area natives that the term Wampanoag actually translates to "seashell.”

Mr. Englund mounted the bust on a large solid oak base in recognition that Metacomet's capture occurred under an oak tree.

One noted trait of Metacomet and other pieces by Mr. Englund is the absence of eyes in the sockets. "Eyeballs block your entering into a piece," he explained. When approaching the statue, Metacomet's eyes seem to glint with the interaction of light on bronze.
Comment:  There's no picture of this statue, but the description is good. It sounds like the opposite of the approach Cyrus Dallin took with his stereotypical sculpture of Massasoit, King Philip's father.

For more on King Philip, see Roger Williams, Slave Trader and King Philip Chainsaw Statue.

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