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The Roc's Egg

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The Roc's Egg

Artist: Elihu Vedder (American, 1836-1923; active Italy after 1856)

Date: c. 1863
Medium: Graphite on cream-colored medium weight, wove paper
Overall: 5 × 8in. (12.7 × 20.3cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 2004.11
Label Text
Elihu Vedder grew up in nearby Schenectady, NY. After the Civil War he moved to Rome, Italy where he lived and worked until his death in 1923. He was known during his lifetime as an unconventional character. His work is characterized by mythical themes with, at times, bizarre and haunting imagery.

This drawing is probably Vedder's earliest idea for a 1863 painting in the collection of the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA. An intermediary oil study is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It illustrates one of the tales from the classic Islamic text, The Arabian Nights, which was first available in Europe in the early 18th century. The egg depicted in this drawing belongs to a Roc, an enormous mythical Arabian bird capable of carrying off an elephant. Several groups of figures surrounding the egg bring scale to the object, which is the focal point of the drawing. These figures enhance the ridiculousness of the massive egg and heighten the viewer's surprise and wonderment at the mysterious creature. The drawing conveys Vedder's love for suggestive and fantastic imagery.

Paul Torres
Hamilton College Intern

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