Sewall Memorial Torches
|Artist||Gorham Manufacturing Company|
|Dimensions||300 cm × 91 cm × 91 cm (120 in × 36 in × 36 in)|
|Location||Herron High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States|
|Owner||Indianapolis Museum of Art|
The Sewall Memorial Torches are a pair of bronze lampposts owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) and displayed in front of Herron High School in the Herron-Morton Place Historic District of downtown Indianapolis. They were commercially produced by the Gorham Manufacturing Company.
These two ornate lampposts are constructed from multiple pieces of cast bronze that are welded together. A foundry mark on the side of the base indicates that they were made by Gorham Company Founders.
The base is roughly square with angular corners that terminate with symmetrical, three-toed lion’s paws. The four paws were cast from the same mold and then welded to the base. The vertical sides of the base, about 4” in height, display a Greek key pattern. This is surmounted by a low, conical wreath of acanthus leaves which meets the cylindrical column shaft approximately 6” above the vertical sides.
The base is welded to the lower section of the vertical element, which is approximately 12” in diameter and 18” tall. It is decorated with several tiers of repeating, vertical, leaf-like patterns, topped with a wreath of acanthus leaves projecting outwards approximately 4” from the section below it.
A wide, circular pan about 32” in diameter rests atop the capital. This element is decorated with fluting that radiates outward. A small, ornate bronze element is anchored in the center of the pan (remaining mostly out of view from the ground), and acts as a support to the light fixture and globe. Electrical hardware rests on this and connects the globes to the lamp structure. The spherical globes, which were purchased by the IMA in 2010, are made of translucent white plastic and measure 2 feet in diameter.
The torches are identical except for inscriptions on the front of each base. The lamppost on the west side of the walkway reads:
- MAY WRIGHT SEWALL
- BORN GREENFIELD, WIS., MAY 27, 1844
- DIED INDIANAPOLIS, IND., JULY 22, 1920
- "LEAD KINDLY LIGHT"
The lamppost to the east reads:
- IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF
- MAY WRIGHT SEWALL
- IN WHOSE WISE AND FARSEEING THOUGHT ORIGINATED
- THE IDEA OF AN ART ASSOCIATION OF INDIANAPOLIS
The Sewall Torches are intimately tied to the history of the IMA and the arts movement in Indianapolis at the turn of the 20th century. May Wright Sewall was the founder of the Art Association of Indianapolis, the precursor to the IMA.
Sewall is known for her involvement with women's rights and peace movements, and for founding the Indianapolis Girls' Classical School and the Indianapolis Propylaeum, the latter of which continues to this day. Shortly after her death in 1920 the Association honored her contributions to Indianapolis culture by erecting these torches outside what was then the Herron Art Institute, the city’s first art museum and art school (Herron School of Art & Design is now located on the campus of IUPUI). The Art Association changed its name to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1969 and moved to its current location on Michigan Road in 1970, at which point the torches were put in storage.
In 2010, the lampposts were returned to their original location outside the building that now houses Herron High School, a public charter school focused on a classical liberal arts education which carries on the artistic heritage of the site.
The Gorham Manufacturing Company was founded in 1831 in Providence, Rhode Island. The company began by chiefly manufacturing silver articles, but it developed a Bronze Division in 1890.
The torches are structurally stable at their restored location; new mounts were bolted into the limestone bases, not directly attached to the torches but merely holding them in place underneath. At the time of this most recent installation the bronze was completely discolored by verdigris and black corrosion film. This splotchy appearance made the overall shape of the lampposts and the designs within the intricate bronze-work difficult to fully appreciate. Thus, the IMA Conservation Department performed a treatment on the torches following installation, thoroughly cleaning away most of the corrosion and applying multiple protective coatings of wax to the torches. As a result the surface of the bronze is more unified and the appearance now more closely reflects the originally intended aesthetic. The bronze is also protected from further corrosion.
- "Biographical Sketch" in "May Wright Sewall, Avowed Feminist by Hester Ann Hale Collection Guide". Indiana Historical Society. 1993-01-11. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
- History. Indianapolis Museum of Art. Retrieved 29 Dec 2010.
- Mission. Herron High School. Retrieved 29 Dec 2010.
- Gorham Manufacturing Company, Bronze Division. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian. Retrieved 29 Dec 2010.
- "Caring for Bronze in the Community." Indianapolis Museum of Art Blog. 21 Jul 2010. Retrieved 29 Dec 2010.