Volume 21, Issue 1 | Spring 2022

New Discoveries
Finding Florence Freeman

by Jacqueline Marie Musacchio

As a scholar of Italian Renaissance women and material culture, I am accustomed to not always finding what I want to find, since such an enormous number of objects and documents have been lost in the intervening centuries. When I shifted my focus to my current book project, an examination of the experience of a group of late nineteenth-century women artists who traveled from the United States to Italy, the comparative wealth of information was tremendously exciting. Of course, recreating the lives and work of some of these women still remains a challenge. Diaries, letters, and other documents are scattered, contemporary publications are biased or vague, and much of the art has disappeared into private collections. I keep a list of objects I want to find, hoping they might appear at auction or even at a flea market if I am alert enough to notice. So I was delighted when a reference to one of the objects on my list appeared in my inbox. I received a message from someone who had read an article I published in this journal in 2014, in which I briefly mentioned Boston-born sculptor Florence Freeman (January 14, 1836–August 8, 1883) as one of the many women artists from the United States living and working in Rome.‍[1] My correspondent revealed that his great-great grandmother bought the marble chimneypiece that Freeman sent to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.

Reading this message was especially thrilling because so little has been published about Freeman’s life and work.‍[2] The only sculpture by her reproduced (albeit infrequently), and the only one in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System database, is a marble bust of Sandalphon (fig. 1), an archangel popularized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1858 eponymous poem.‍[3] Freeman’s identifiable oeuvre recently doubled with the auction of a small signed marble statuette of a seated putto with a lamb at the base of a horn (fig. 2).‍[4] But contemporary sources also cite a medallion of a Commander Perry,‍[5] busts of a Miss Tracy‍[6] and a Miss Dall, an ideal head or allegory of Piety,‍[7] a life-size Chibiabos from Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,”‍[8] reliefs representing Dante and the seven days of the week, and statuettes of Thekla from Elizabeth Rundle Charles’s Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (1862)‍[9] and a sleeping child.‍[10] And, in their book Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works (1879), Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton described a chimneypiece representing “Children and Yule Log and Fireside Spirits,” displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and purchased by Boston philanthropist Mary Tileston Hemenway (1820–94).‍[11] Knowing this last reference, I asked my correspondent whether his relative was Hemenway. He confirmed my guess and connected me with the current owner of Hemenway’s Italianate home in Boston’s Beacon Hill, who invited me to examine the chimneypiece—still, to my surprise, in its original location in what was originally the family parlor on the second floor (fig. 3).

figure 1
Fig. 1, Florence Freeman, Sandalphon, before 1870. Marble. National Park Service, Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Cambridge. Courtesy of National Park Service, Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
figure 2
Fig. 2, Florence Freeman, Putto and Lamb, ca. 1870s. Marble. Location unknown. Artwork in the public domain; image available from www.liveauctioneers.com.
figure 3
Fig. 3, Florence Freeman, Yule Log Chimneypiece, 1876. Marble. Private Collection, Boston. Photograph by the author.

The very fact that Freeman’s known sculpture—a bust, a statuette, and now this chimneypiece—represents such diverse types of objects speaks to her efforts to capture clients in a competitive market and her awareness of the popularity of such domestic ornament among the art-inclined travelers to Rome. The Hemenway chimneypiece is especially interesting in this context. By the late nineteenth century, although stoves were increasingly used to warm parlors and other chambers, concerns about poor air quality and the utilitarian appearance of those stoves kept the better-ventilated and oftentimes visually compelling hearth a focal point in many homes.‍[12] Indeed, it is no coincidence that a popular weekly in the United States addressing household concerns was entitled Hearth and Home (1868–75). With the popularity of Victorian aesthetics, ornamented chimneypieces in marble or other material, purchased at home or abroad, added to the overall décor, even if efforts had to be made to keep them free of dirt from smoke and ash.‍[13] In addition to appealing to late nineteenth-century taste, marble chimneypieces also recalled those seen in Renaissance palaces, which were cited in contemporary guidebooks and served as models for Anglo-American homeowners.‍[14] Even artists who had a wide range of both public and private commissions had no qualms creating chimneypieces, with perhaps the most impressive being the monumental example that Augustus Saint-Gaudens—who lived in Italy for an extended period himself—made for the New York home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II in the early 1880s.‍[15] Mary Hemenway and her husband, the merchant Augustus, were part of Boston’s elite circles, and their home was the setting for a multitude of social events, so Freeman’s chimneypiece, though much less ostentatious than that of Saint-Gaudens, would have been admired by many.

figure 4
Fig. 4, Detail of Florence Freeman, Yule Log Chimneypiece, 1876. Marble. Private Collection, Boston. Photograph by the author.

It was certainly the focus of Hemenway’s chamber. The hearth, now and perhaps originally, is lined with sheets of stamped metal with a floral pattern to trap the heat and reflect the light from the flames. But few would have noticed that feature; the bright white marble of the chimneypiece, which measures approximately 51 1/2 inches high and 71 1/2 inches wide, was much more compelling. It is constructed of five low-relief white marble blocks surrounded by a reddish-brown brecciated marble mantel and framework, probably carved from rosso mandorlato or portasanta, both of which would have been easily accessible to Freeman in Rome, particularly in the relatively small pieces she required. The mantel is about 15 1/2 inches deep, providing ample space to hold the ornamental objects and bric-a-brac so popular in fashionable homes of this era.‍[16] Below it, the lintel is carved with a playful frieze (fig. 4). On the left, three boys try to yank a leafy branch from the jaws of a shaggy dog. This branch, and the Yule log itself, in the foreground at left center of the lintel, were apparently felled by the ax now resting against a stump at right center. Six nude boys work in pairs to tug the log with a twisted rope from left to right, their tousled curls indicating their movement through space; a butterfly hovering in the background and vegetation provides the minimal setting. The blocks on either side of this frieze are carved with curly haired seraphim with folded wings. Below those, on the blocks surrounding the hearth, are figural groups composed vertically around tree stumps to fit the tall, narrow space. The left has two winged nude putti below a bearded Saint Nicholas who wears a fur-trimmed cap and jacket, with a pipe in his right hand and a toy-filled sack over his left shoulder; the right has three winged nude putti, the topmost playing a string instrument. I was delighted by the inscription “Florence Freeman made this Rome 1876” (FLORENCE FREEMAN FECIT ROMÆ 1876) carved into the left side.

Like other artists in the United States during this period, Freeman had few opportunities to see original works of art, and as a woman she had even fewer opportunities for training. To counter this, she traveled to Italy in 1861, at the age of twenty-five, and remained there, but for periodic visits to family, for the rest of her life. She was one of several women sculptors associated with actress Charlotte Cushman—as lovers, friends, or recipients of financial support—including Margaret Foley, Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis, Emma Stebbins, and Anne Whitney.‍[17] Americans were intrigued by women artists abroad in part due to the popularity of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Marble Faun (1860), a novel about artist life in Rome; according to Hosmer, Freeman was allegedly nicknamed Hilda, after Hawthorne’s painter protagonist.‍[18] Of course, some Americans were less interested in art and more interested in critiquing behavior that went against societal expectations, something women sculptors certainly did. This is best exemplified by Henry James’s later description of a “strange sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors’ who at one time settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock.”‍[19] Yet, even his dismissive reference to these women demonstrates an awareness of both the artists and their art. Freeman is the least known of these women today, but she spent her sculptural career at the very center of Rome’s Anglo-American community and, as I rediscovered the circumstances surrounding her chimneypiece for this article, I became determined to rediscover Freeman herself.

According to a later manuscript of family history written by her sister Susan Freeman Lawrence, Freeman and her siblings romanticized Italy, naming a pond and a hill near their Beacon Hill home the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.‍[20] Freeman’s parents supported her interest in sculpture—which Freeman claimed was prompted by seeing an exhibition of Hosmer’s work—and by 1855 she was studying with sculptor Richard Saltonstall Greenough and copying a Venus de Milo statuette; an article in The Crayon described her as “a new aspirant for fame.”‍[21] She modeled a small version of Greenough’s life-size sculpture of Benjamin Franklin for Bullfinch’s Court House in Boston, which was said to “[give] evidence of talent of a very high order.”‍[22]

Soon after this, when Greenough returned to Europe, Freeman lost her mentor. But her family knew Charlotte Cushman, who announced her decision to retire from the stage and move to Italy in 1861.‍[23] The timing was fortuitous; according to her sister, their mother “put her under the care of Miss Charlotte Cushman, who . . . was ‘her Roman mother’ for many years . . . her friendship and that of Harriet Hosmer were of great value and pleasure not only to Flori but to us all.”‍[24]

In fact both Cushman and Hosmer would become incredibly important to Freeman. On July 17, 1861, Freeman sailed to Liverpool with Cushman, Cushman’s lover Emma Stebbins and maid Sallie Mercer, and Margaret Foley.‍[25] Although Foley quickly went ahead to Rome, the other women made a more leisurely journey south, stopping, for example, to visit Rosa Bonheur in Fontainebleau before arriving in Florence on September 25.‍[26] Cushman, Stebbins, and Mercer soon departed for Rome, but not before Cushman secured a mentor and lodgings for Freeman in Florence. Cushman wrote to her former lover Emma Crow Cushman, now the wife of her nephew Ned, to reveal, “I saw [sculptor Hiram] Powers + talked to him as though I was Florence’s uncle. He is as kind as [a] man can be + promises that she shall work in his studio or in fact do anything to command him.”‍[27] She also settled Freeman in an apartment with the painter Elisabeth Adams, the sister of Annie Adams Fields. A very satisfied Cushman noted, “[Freeman] is fixed as far as her art + her own personal comfort are concerned. All now depends upon herself.”‍[28]

Working with Powers, and living with Adams, provided Freeman with an introduction to Florence’s vibrant Anglo-American society. But the lure of Rome and Cushman’s homosocial circle of women artists and writers must have been strong. So it is no surprise that both Freeman and Adams moved there by November 1862.‍[29] According to Cushman, they took an apartment with “two other forlorn damsels from Boston,” probably the painters Mary Elizabeth and Abigail Osgood Williams.‍[30] Freeman grew close to the sisters during her years in Rome; they attended services at the American Chapel together and signed the institution’s 1866–67 subscription book one after the other.‍[31]

Many members of Rome’s Anglo-American community, centered around the Piazza di Spagna, attended the American Chapel—a Protestant haven in the otherwise Catholic city—for both religious and social reasons. This community was comprised of long-term residents as well as short-term travelers who stopped for a few days, weeks, or even a whole season; these short-term travelers were especially important for artists like Freeman, since they made a practice of visiting artists’ studios and might be convinced to commission a work or buy something already on display. Cushman’s celebrated weekly salons were another way for her artist friends to meet potential clients, and Cushman was pleased to make introductions and offer assistance. She knew finances were often a concern and believed in providing artists with occasional meals as “a matter of compassion”; in Freeman’s case Cushman’s compassion extended to invitations to carriage drives and an opera performance, and at one point she even arranged for the artist to lodge with Stebbins’s sister and her husband, the painter John Rollin Tilton, in the Palazzo Barberini.‍[32] Cushman seemed to have particular sympathy for Freeman. Paraphrasing Orlando’s description of Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a role from her own repertoire, she described Freeman as “‘the chaste the inexpressive she’ but she is sweet + good + true—though silent.”‍[33]

However, by the summer of 1864, the shifting relationships among the women in Cushman’s circle caused considerable tension. In another letter Cushman observed, “Hattie has been making use of Florence Freeman as a ‘fag’ but now that [Emma Crow Cushman’s sister] Mary has come she leaves Florie to her own devices. It is hard work to love Hattie for she will not suffer any human being to hold her one moment longer than she pleases.”‍[34] In fact Cushman repeatedly used the term fag, denoting someone tasked with menial chores in an unequal relationship, to imply that Hosmer took advantage of her sister sculptor.‍[35] But Cushman and Hosmer also had their own fraught relationship, and that may have colored her impression of both Hosmer and, on occasion, Freeman too. In May 1864 she escorted Freeman to England to catch a steamer to the United States and described the challenge of traveling “with that ‘inexpressive she’ who drives me almost mad with her silence + non want of comprehension—but seeming want of it + utter inability to make any response to any thought feeling or action. I tried hard to be patient but nearly broke down several times.”‍[36] But it may have been Freeman’s infatuation with Hosmer that upset Cushman more; she continued, “I don’t think Rome has agreed with her—she dont [sic] improve in her art at all—and her infatuation for Hattie—who dont [sic] care for her one bit more than she does for anybody else in the world has made her miserable—she is thin—nervous + almost stupid!!”‍[37]

figure 5
Fig. 5, Lorenzo Suscipj, Florence Freeman, ca. 1860s. Carte de visite. Athenaeum, Boston. Artwork in the public domain; photograph by the author.

Despite Cushman’s frustration and the personal entanglements of the women in her circle, Rome was the best place for an aspiring sculptor, and Freeman returned after only a few months in the United States. Like other artists, male and female, she worked on her art and socialized with the Anglo-American community in the fall, winter, and spring, and often left the city during the hot summer months.‍[38] Lorenzo Suscipj, who had a popular shop and studio on the via Condotti, took her photograph around this time and she presumably used the resulting carte de visite, showing her with curly hair cut short like Hosmer’s, as a marketing tool for her sculpture, which began to attract notice (fig. 5). Indeed, despite Cushman’s complaint that Freeman’s sculpture showed no improvement, the actress had praised her efforts a few months earlier in January 1864.‍[39] Newspaper reports also began to appear with some regularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and these, as well as guidebooks, directed travelers to Freeman’s studio, which over the years moved around the artists’ quarter between via Margutta and vicolo di San Niccolò da Tolentino.‍[40]

Freeman’s father died in 1869, and related financial worries may have forced her to remain in Rome that summer, with Hosmer and journalist Anne Brewster for company.‍[41] But she soon regained her equilibrium. In January 1870 a group of prominent Bostonians gifted her Sandalphon to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.‍[42] Soon after she was included in a list of “Seven unmarried American ladies . . . practicing sculpture in Rome,” alongside Whitney, Hosmer, Stebbins, Lewis, Ream, and Foley, that was reprinted in several newspapers.‍[43] In fact Freeman continued to profit from her association with her sister artists. An 1873 article grouped Freeman with Hosmer and Foley, praising her growing talent and noting that “Her studio is full of exquisite designs and graceful bas reliefs, statuettes, busts, and statues.”‍[44] Her putto and lamb group may have been one of these statuettes, its horn perhaps intended to hold flowers on a mantelpiece. Relatively inexpensive decorative objects like this were key to success in the art market for many of the Anglo-American artists in Italy; they appealed to travelers looking to purchase a memento of their journey from one of their compatriots. But they also responded to contemporary aesthetics that favored the display of objects and ornaments in myriad combinations throughout a domestic interior.‍[45] Hosmer, for example, had great success producing copies of her marble Puck (1854) to respond to this demand. Of course, those who did not travel abroad or could not afford something on the scale of Hosmer’s Puck might opt for a statuette in Parian or other material that imitated marble, giving a wider range of collectors and consumers a chance to own a version of, for example, Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave (1843). Freeman never achieved fame akin to that of Hosmer or Powers, but her choice of popular subjects and ornamental objects indicate her attention to art market trends.

Regardless of what they created, the novelty of women sculptors, for better or for worse, kept them and their work in the public eye, as did Cushman’s support. However, as Freeman’s career began to attract attention, Cushman fell ill with breast cancer and left Rome for the United States in 1870. Two nights before her departure, Cushman described the many people who called on her to say farewell, including a distressed Freeman, “sitting a silent monument in the easy chair.”‍[46] After so many years of support, Cushman’s departure must have been difficult for Freeman. But others stepped in to promote her even before Cushman left. In one of her syndicated columns earlier that year, Anne Brewster stated that Freeman’s reliefs “of fancy and ideal subjects are poetical in thought, and the designs are exquisite.”‍[47]

Brewster made the first reference to the Hemenway chimneypiece in this column: “Miss Freeman’s designs for chimney-pieces are quite original; one has over the chimney a bas relief of children dragging home the Yule log, and on either side are wood elves sitting on logs as if watching the blazing of the fire pensively and thinking of their lost trees.”‍[48] This praise notwithstanding, Freeman’s design—at this point likely a clay model—was not entirely original; there are thematic and compositional similarities to her friend Hosmer’s unrealized design for a chimneypiece representing The Death of the Dryads (1867) for Melchet Court, the home of her lover, Lady Louisa Ashburton, in Hampshire, England. According to Hosmer, these dryads, or tree spirits, were appropriate because the iconography of a chimneypiece “ought to have something to do with wood or fire,” an opinion she must have shared with Freeman.‍[49] But even if Freeman was inspired in some way by Hosmer’s earlier efforts, her work was compelling enough to continue to attract notice. In 1871, an article in the suffragist journal The Revolution—probably by the editor Laura Curtis Bullard, who was then in Italy—praised several of her sculptures. Without mentioning the Hemenway chimneypiece specifically, it stated, “Her designs for chimney-pieces are gems, and in less prosaic days than these, when people were not satisfied with the work of mechanics, but demanded artistic designs in the commonest household articles, they would have made her famous.”‍[50] Although both Brewster and Bullard refer to chimneypieces, Hemenway’s is the only one by Freeman to be described in any detail in contemporary sources.

These notices continued. A few months later, an article in the Art-Journal described “a clever and well-executed design for a fire-place—children bringing in the Yule-log.”‍[51] And the following spring philanthropist Martha P. Lowe bestowed further praise in the suffragist Woman’s Journal: “Miss Florence Freeman has a charming chimney piece which she is at work upon; it represents the little children drawing in the Yule log, with other pretty fancies; the whole conception of the thing is exceedingly pleasing. I wish some of our rich Bostonians would send her an order for it.”‍[52] Perhaps to entice those Bostonians, and others, Freeman had a chimneypiece, presumably this one, as well as a female bust, photographed by James Anderson’s studio in Rome, which would have provided her with another marketing tool to entice studio visitors to make a purchase.‍[53]

But apparently no one asked Freeman to turn her clay into marble until Mary Tileston Hemenway visited Rome in March 1876, a month after Cushman’s death that February. After so many years of work, Freeman must have been much relieved to sell the chimneypiece.‍[54] She may have known Hemenway from Boston, since both families lived in Beacon Hill. But Hemenway’s arrival in Rome was of interest to all US artists in the city, not least because she was working with Hosmer, Brewster, and the artist and Dante scholar Sarah Freeman Clarke to secure contributions for the Women’s Pavilion at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition, due to open in May 1876.‍[55]

Those contributions included objects by anonymous Roman women—textiles, beads coated with fish scales known as “Roman pearls,” and more—as well as work by Freeman’s friends, Foley, Clarke, Isabella Lane Conolly, and Caroline Carson.‍[56] Hosmer planned to send two sculptures, but she was plagued by logistical difficulties.‍[57] A loyal friend, Freeman sent a letter to the publication of the Women’s Centennial Executive Committee, The New Century for Woman, testifying that Hosmer’s sculptures were delayed but “truly magnificent”; in the end, however, they were not displayed at all.‍[58] Freeman was more fortunate, although her contributions—the chimneypiece and a second bust of Sandalphon—did not arrive in Philadelphia until perhaps August, possibly because she needed time to carve the chimneypiece in marble following Hemenway’s purchase.‍[59] In his review of the exposition, journalist Edward King, though critical of Sandalphon, enthused about the chimneypiece: “Miss Freeman’s Fireside Spirits, as the little sculptures on a beautiful marble mantel are appropriately called, is quite charming. . . . This is good, would we had more of it.”‍[60]

Hemenway may have been too distracted to appreciate this praise of her new acquisition. She sailed home in May but her husband Augustus died in June. She would have been in mourning when the chimneypiece arrived in her Beacon Hill home, after the exposition closed in November 1876, and the installation in her parlor, which would have required assistance from a mason or builder, was most likely delayed as she adjusted to life as a widow.

And Freeman herself was unable to capitalize on her Centennial success. She may have been in declining health; in a letter dated October 1876 she told Hemenway that she had spent the previous summer in Rome suffering from neuralgia and exhaustion.‍[61] In the years to follow, she was increasingly alone; Foley died in 1877, Clarke returned to the United States in 1878, and Hosmer spent much of her time in England with Lady Ashburton. But even from that distance Hosmer continued to depend on Freeman. In 1879 she sent Freeman to meet with the Roman artisan Ludovico Ciccaglia to get him to sign a statement testifying to Hosmer’s invention of a technique to make artificial marble.‍[62] With this, Hosmer was able to defend herself from criticism about her role in this invention—there were competing claims to it—and she made a successful patent application for the technique in the United States.

Freeman fell ill with what was described as consumption in the summer of 1883, and her Roman landlady, Bettina, and an English friend, Ellen Smith, tended to her.‍[63] Smith sent word of Freeman’s condition to English author Mary Howitt, who was summering in the Tyrol. Howitt had herself tended to Foley at the end of her life, and she quickly sent good wishes to her friend:

The news has reached us . . . that you are ill & as I understand confined to your bed . . . If we were near we would both visit you and do what little lay in our power to be of good service. But you are not quite alone—that dear faithful + most kind Miss Ellen Smith is, now, happily in Rome, and it is a comfort for us to know that your padrona, that good Bettina, is faithful to you. I have not seen [Howitt’s daughter] Margaret so afflicted & cast down by any thing for a long time, as she was by the tidings of your illness, which reached us yesterday.‍[64]

But Freeman never read Howitt’s letter; it was written on August 8, the same day she died. Although it was summer, the Misses Williams may have been in Rome with their friend in her final days, because they made a copy of Howitt’s letter and kept it as a memento.

Freeman’s death was reported in Boston newspapers by August 23.‍[65] Since it took approximately two weeks for mail between Rome and Boston, a letter to Freeman’s brother James, dated August 9, probably arrived at the same time. Internal references in this now fragmentary letter identify the author as her Roman banker, James Clinton Hooker, who revealed she died in her sleep.‍[66] Hooker also provided details about Freeman’s finances and confirmed the care she received from Bettina and Smith.

Transporting Freeman’s body across land and sea to the family plot at Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge—now on the same path as the plots of Hemenway and Whitney, and only a short walk from those of Cushman and Hosmer, all of whom died in the United States—would have been prohibitively expensive. And, given her long residence abroad, it may not have been Freeman’s wish. Instead, she was interred at Rome’s non-Catholic cemetery at the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, alongside so many other members of the Anglo-American community.‍[67] Hooker allocated 497 francs from Freeman’s account to pay these expenses—the coffin with its mattress, pillow, and nameplate, gravesite preparation, the hearse, and fees for the undertaker and chaplain—and provided her family with a detailed invoice.‍[68] Protestant burial costs were carefully controlled in Catholic Rome, and this invoice, signed by John Trucchi, the undertaker recommended in contemporary guidebooks, accorded with those costs.‍[69]

figure 6
Fig. 6, Detail of Giuseppe Primoli, Glimpse of the Non-Catholic Cemetery under Snow, March 1891. Aristotype. Archivio Fondazione Primoli, Rome. Courtesy Fondazione Primoli, Rome.

Neither the invoice nor Hooker’s letter described where in the cemetery Freeman was buried, or mentioned a headstone, and her grave is not visible today. However, Freeman died two days after German painter August Riedel, another member of Rome’s artist community, and Nicholas Stanley-Price discovered that Riedel and Freeman were buried side by side in the fifth row of the so-called first zone of the cemetery (fig. 6). Freeman’s family made no arrangement to pay the cemetery fees in perpetuity, so her body was later disinterred, and her headstone removed and probably destroyed, to make way for another burial. Stanley-Price identified part of her headstone in early cemetery photographs, indicating that it was a simple stone slab with a curved top, inscribed with her name, place and date of birth, and place and date of death.

Hooker’s letter also omitted any reference to Freeman’s studio, and I found no advertisement of a sale of its contents, as had happened following Foley’s death.‍[70] Bearing in mind her comments about her health to Hemenway, Freeman may have been too ill to maintain a studio or continue carving in the last years of her life. But the banker noted that “She had two rooms in which there is considerable property a piano among other things” and that Bettina believed some of that property was Hosmer’s, so he planned to write to Hosmer about it. He apparently did, but the letter does not survive; a few months later Hosmer wrote to her friend Cornelia Carr to say that she received Hooker’s letter, but she made no mention of any property; instead, she confessed, “Flory’s death seemed very sad—I had no idea she was in that condition of health so the news came upon me with a great shock. . . . I shall miss her awfully when I go back to Rome.”‍[71]

Despite the great distance, at least some of Freeman’s possessions made it back to her family in Boston. Her brothers later donated eight plaster casts in her name to the Museum of Fine Arts.‍[72] One was a death mask of Beethoven, which I assume was placed near her piano. Two were popular works from the Vatican—a statuette of the Osiris-Antinous (Museo Gregoriano Egizio, ca. 133 CE) and the relief later known as the Gradiva (Museo Chiaramonti, fourth century BCE)‍[73]—and another four were details from Trajan’s Column (ca. 113 CE). The last cast, a bust of an infant looking over its left shoulder, allegedly by the seventeenth-century Flemish sculptor François Duquesnoy, may have been a particular inspiration to Freeman, since both her putto statuette and her Hemenway chimneypiece include cavorting children similar to Duquesnoy’s work.

In many ways, despite their disappearance from the historical record, both the Hemenway chimneypiece and Freeman herself have been hiding in plain sight, the chimneypiece still in the home of its original purchaser and Freeman in the published and unpublished accounts of those who knew or interacted with her in Boston and in the Anglo-American community in Rome. I hope that ongoing examination of additional sources, particularly travelers’ diaries and letters, will yield additional information, and Freeman’s sculpture will continue to appear in private collections or auctions.‍[74] But, even now, Freeman serves as a case study of the ways in which a woman from the United States could take advantage of the art market to have a fulfilling career as an artist, amid a wide circle of friends and colleagues, in late nineteenth-century Rome.


In addition to those colleagues mentioned in my notes, I am grateful to Emily Burns, Alice Friedman, William H. Gerdts, John Hemenway, Patrick Kerwin, Jeff Makholm, Martha McNamara, and Nancy Siegel for information and advice, as well as the editorial staff of NCAW. My research was funded in part by an Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts.


[1] Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, “Mapping the ‘White, Marmorean Flock’: Anne Whitney Abroad, 1867–1868,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 13, no. 2 (Autumn 2014), http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/autumn14/musacchio-introduction.

[2] Freeman was mentioned but none of her sculptures were included in Nicolai Cikovsky et al., The White, Marmorean Flock: Nineteenth-Century American Women Neoclassical Sculptors, exh. cat. (Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College Art Gallery, 1972). She is not referenced at all in the most recent examination of women artists in Rome, Melissa Dabakis, A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014).

[3] “Sandalphon, (sculpture),” SIRIS (database), Smithsonian Institution, accessed December 28, 2021, https://www.si.edu/.

[4] Lot 197, John McInnis Auctioneers, East Booth Bay, Maine, July 27, 2019, accessed December 10, 2021, https://www.liveauctioneers.com/.

[5] “Sketchings,” The Crayon, July 11, 1855.

[6] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, January 15, 1864, Charlotte Cushman Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC (henceforth CCP). This may be the bust mentioned in Letter from Florence Freeman to Hiram Powers, October 4, 1863, Hiram Powers Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (henceforth HPP).

[7] Harriet Stillman (Hayward) Winslow, Diary entry, January 6, 1866, Joseph H. Hayward Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. The bust of Piety may be the ideal head described in Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, January 15, 1864, CCP.

[8] H. W., “Lady-Artists in Rome,” Art-Journal, June 1866, 177; John H. Hopkins, European Letters to the Pittsburgh Post 1869–70 (Pittsburgh, 1870), 84; and “Miss Florence Freeman—An American Sculptor,” The Revolution, May 11, 1871.

[9] Anne Brewster, “Letter from Rome,” Daily Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), February 22, 1870; and “Miss Florence Freeman—An American Sculptor.”

[10] Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works (London: Trubner & Co., 1879), 1:270; see also Clara Erskine Clement, Women in the Fine Arts (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1904), 133.

[11] Clement and Hutton, Artists of the Nineteenth Century, 1:270. Their claim that the chimneypiece earned an honorable mention at the Centennial cannot be confirmed; see Francis A. Walker, ed., Reports and Awards (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1880).

[12] See, for example, “Decorative Treatment of the Fireplace,” Furniture Gazette, December 6, 1873, 565–66; “Mantels, Fenders, and Fire-Irons,” The Art Amateur 4, no. 4 (March 1881): 78; and Marion Harland, “The Old Open Fireplace,” Washington Post, June 20, 1886. Of course, while a hearth was desirable, an elaborate chimneypiece did not increase its health benefits; writing under the pseudonym Christopher Crowfield, Harriet Beecher Stowe described “marble mantles imported from Italy” as unnecessary expenses because they did not improve the health of a home’s occupants. Christopher Crowfield, House and Home Papers (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1865), 186.

[13] For instructions on removing stains from marble, something a chimneypiece would be susceptible to, see Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman’s Home: Or, Principles of Domestic Science (New York: J. B. Ford and Company, 1869), 368.

[14] For the elaborate chimneypiece in Urbino’s Palazzo Ducale, cited in Italy: Handbook for Travellers: Central Italy and Rome (Leipzig, Germany: Karl Baedeker, 1877), 89, see “An Italian Chimney Piece,” Scientific American Supplement, 5, no. 121 (April 27, 1878): 1928, where it is captioned “Suggestions for Decorative Art.”

[15] Thayer Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), 1:272–75.

[16] This was described as problematic later in the nineteenth century in Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr., The Decoration of Houses (London: B. T. Batsford, 1898), 83–84.

[17] On Cushman, see Lisa Merrill, When Romeo Was a Woman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999); and “Old Maids, Sister-Artists, and Aesthetes: Charlotte Cushman and Her Circle of ‘Jolly Bachelors’ Construct an Expatriate Women’s Community in Rome,” Women’s Writing 10, no. 2 (2003): 367–84.

[18] “People Miss Hosmer Met,” Daily Inter Ocean, May 25, 1890.

[19] Henry James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends, from Letters, Diaries, and Recollections (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1904), 1:257–58.

[20] Susan Freeman Lawrence, “Family History and Reminiscences,” unpublished manuscript, vol. 1, 1897, 97, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA.

[21] Lawrence, “Family History,” 1:89; “Miss Florence Freeman—An American Sculptor”; and “Sketchings.”

[22] “The Franklin Monument,” Boston Daily Atlas, January 19, 1856; see also Thomas B. Brumbaugh, “The Art of Richard Greenough,” Old-Time New England 53, no. 3 (January–March 1963): 65; “Franklin’s Monument,” Puritan Recorder, January 14, 1856; and Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Memorial of the Inauguration of the Statue of Franklin (Boston: City Council, 1857), 369.

[23] Lawrence, “Family History,” 1:113; and Merrill, “Old Maids,” 378.

[24] Lawrence, “Family History,” 1:121.

[25] “Passengers Sailed,” New York Times, July 18, 1861 and Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, July 17, 1861, CCP. Freeman’s passport application gives further details; see United States Passport Applications, 1795–1925, accessed December 10, 2021, https://www.ancestry.com/ [login required].

[26] Letters from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, September 11 and 17, 1861, CCP.

[27] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, October 3, 1861, CCP.

[28] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, October 3, 1861, CCP.

[29] Richard P. Wunder, Hiram Powers: Vermont Sculptor, 1805–1873 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991), 1:398; James Hubbard Weeks, Diary entry, November 1, 1862, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA; and Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, November 1, 1862, CCP. Freeman remained in contact with Powers and was recognized as his student; see Letters from Florence Freeman to Hiram Powers, October 4, 1863, and January 7, 1864, HPP; and Wunder, Hiram Powers, 1:356n138.

[30] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, November 7, 1862, CCP; and Letter from Abigail Osgood Williams to Henry Willard Williams, begun September 21, 1861, Mary Elizabeth Williams Papers, Phillips Library, Rowley, MA (henceforth MEWP).

[31] “Subscriptions for the Support of the American Chapel Rome, 1866–67,” Archives of San Paolo Entro le Mura, Rome. I am grateful to Andrea D’Agosto for facilitating my research in this archive.

[32] Letters from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, November 21, December 12, and 26, 1862, and January 16 and April 24, 1863, CCP. Freeman gave the address of the Palazzo Barberini in her letter to Hiram Powers, January 7, 1864, HPP.

[33] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, March 4, 1864, CCP.

[34] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, February 4, 1864, CCP.

[35] Letters from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, March 4 and December 13, 1864, CCP.

[36] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 3, 1864, CCP (emphasis in the original).

[37] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 3, 1864, CCP. Cushman could not have been too upset, however, since she, Hosmer, and Freeman returned to Rome together that fall; see “Books, Authors and Art,” Springfield Weekly Republican, November 19, 1864; and Letters from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, December 2 and 13, 1864, CCP.

[38] Letters from Anne Whitney to her family, begun June 23 and October 28, 1867, Anne Whitney Papers, Wellesley College Archives, Wellesley, MA (henceforth AWP).

[39] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, January 15, 1864, CCP.

[40] For newspapers see, for example, “American Art Abroad,” New York Times, March 6, 1864; “American Travelers and American Artists in Europe,” New York Times, October 15, 1865; and multiple issues of American Register and Forbes’ Tourist’s Directory. Guidebooks of various dates include various editions of Rome Seen in a Week (Rome: Luigi Piale); A Handbook of Rome and Its Environs (London: John Murray); Rome and Its Neighbourhood Visited in Eight Days (Turin, Italy: Herman Loescher & Co.); and S. Russell Forbes, Rambles in Rome (Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons). Studio listings were rarely updated, however, so word of mouth might have been a more useful way to find a particular artist.

[41] On Freeman’s summer in Rome and the death of her father, see Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, June 27, 1869, CCP; Letter from Harriet Hosmer to Wayman Crow, July 29, 1869, Harriet Goodhue Hosmer Papers, Schlesinger Library, Cambridge, MA (henceforth HGHP); and Letter from Anne Whitney to her family, October 9, 1869, AWP.

[42] Letter from Mrs. William G. Weld and others to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, January 13, 1870, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Family Papers, Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, MA. My thanks to Kathryn Hanson Plass for her assistance with my research.

[43] “Budget of Personal,” Anglo American Times, March 5, 1870.

[44] “Three American Sculptors,” Boston Daily Globe, November 19, 1873.

[45] On this see, for example, Thad Logan, The Victorian Parlour: A Cultural Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

[46] Letter from Charlotte Cushman to Emma Crow Cushman, May 20, 1870, CCP.

[47] Brewster, “Letter from Rome.”

[48] Brewster, “Letter from Rome.”

[49] Cornelia Carr, ed., Harriet Hosmer: Letters and Memories (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1912), 224.

[50] “Miss Florence Freeman—An American Sculptor.”

[51] “Visits to the Studios of Rome,” Art-Journal, June 1871, 164.

[52] Martha P. Lowe, “Letter from Italy,” Woman’s Journal, May 18, 1872.

[53] Catalogo delle fotografie di Roma e suoi contorni di D. Anderson (Rome, 1891), 55.

[54] Cushman’s obituary appeared in the American Register, March 4, 1876. Whitney, then in Florence, must have heard about her death earlier; see Letters from Anne Whitney to Edward Whitney, February 27, 1876, AWP; and from Addy Manning to Anne Whitney, March 2, 1876, AWP.

[55] “Concerning Women,” Woman’s Journal, March 25, 1876.

[56] Official Catalogue of the International Exhibition of 1876 (Philadelphia: John R. Nagle and Company, 1876), 101.

[57] Kate Culkin, Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), 124–28.

[58] Florence Freeman, “Letter from Rome,” The New Century for Woman, June 17, 1876.

[59] S. C. P., “The Exhibition,” Cincinnati Daily Gazette, May 25, 1876; and “Woman at the Centennial,” Daily Inter Ocean, August 16, 1876. The catalogue stated that Freeman sent a marble bust and a bronze vase, but the vase was by another artist in Rome, the Italian English sculptor Horatia Augusta Latilla Freeman (Official Catalogue, 101).

[60] Edward King, “Centennial Letters,” Supplement to the Boston Journal, October 14, 1876.

[61] Letter from Florence Freeman to Mary Tileston Hemenway, October 7, 1876, Hemenway Family Papers, Phillips Library, Rowley, MA; Hemenway’s letter to Freeman is lost but Freeman’s reply indicates it provided news of Augustus’s death as well as messages to Conolly and Foley that both Freeman and Clarke conveyed.

[62] Letter from Florence Freeman to Harriet Hosmer, January 6, 1879, HGHP. See the accusation in “The Permanent Magnet as a Motor,” Evening Post (New York), November 11, 1878; and “Miss Hosmer’s Marble,” Evening Post (New York), December 21, 1878; and Ciccaglia’s statement, secured through Freeman’s efforts, in “Miss Hosmer’s Reply,” Evening Post (New York), February 5, 1879.

[63] Together with her sisters Susan and Annie, Ellen Smith ran a popular boarding house for Anglo-Americans in the Piazza di Spagna for many years; see, for example, Matilda Lucas, Two Englishwomen in Rome 1871–1900 (London: Methuen & Co., 1938), 9–10.

[64] Copy of a letter from Mary Howitt to Florence Freeman, August 8, 1883, MEWP.

[65] “Deaths,” Boston Daily Journal, August 23, 1883; and “Died,” Boston Daily Advertiser, August 24, 1883. The official dispatch came later; see “Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, September 5, 1883,” Ancestry.com, accessed December 10, 2021, https://www.ancestry.com/ [login required].

[66] Fragmentary letter from James Clifton Hooker to James Freeman, August 9, 1883, Ancestry.com, accessed December 10, 2021, https://www.ancestry.com/ [login required].

[67] “Registro de’ sepolti acattolici nel cemeterio eretto in Roma,” 223, Archives of the Non-Catholic Cemetery, Rome; see also Cimitero Acattolico di Roma Infopoint, accessed January 4, 2022, https://www.cemeteryrome.it/ (enter “Freeman, Florence” in Surname field of search page). I am grateful to Nicholas Stanley-Price and Amanda Thursfield for their generous assistance with my research there.

[68] John Trucchi, “Bill of the Expenses for the Burial of the Late Miss Florence Freeman,” August 11, 1883, Ancestry.com, accessed December 10, 1883, https://www.ancestry.com/ [login required].

[69] A Handbook of Rome and Its Environs (London: John Murray, 1881), 38–39. According to this source, a first-class funeral cost 650 francs and a second class cost 300 francs, the difference being that a first-class tariff included “a vault for supporting a large monument.” Freeman’s invoice does indicate the fee for the construction of an underground brick vault, but since the photographs discussed below indicate only a simple marker the somewhat lesser tariff makes sense. For further information on the Trucchi family, see Nicholas Stanley-Price, The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome. Its History, Its People and Its Survival for 300 Years (Rome: The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, 2014), 121-22.

[70] Forbes’ Tourist’s Directory, February 1, 1879.

[71] Letter from Harriet Hosmer to Cornelia Carr, December 10, 1883, HGHP.

[72] Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts: Sixteenth Annual Report for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1891 (Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1892), 42. I am grateful to Catherine O’Reilly and Marietta Cambareri for information on Freeman’s casts, and Martha Dunkelman for identifying the Osiris-Antinous.

[73] Edward Robinson, Catalogue of Casts, Part III Greek and Roman Sculpture Supplement (Boston: Houghton, 1896), 18.

[74] It seems that a descendant, perhaps the same one who uploaded the Trucchi invoice to Ancestry.com, edited Freeman’s Wikipedia page and noted that there are “privately held family letters from Florence Freeman to her family, 1862 to 1880,” but I have been unable to make contact to date; see “Florence Freeman,” Wikipedia, accessed December 10, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Freeman.