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Daily Art Moment: Dominique Maggesi

“Over the past few weeks, it has been profoundly moving to witness the idealism, altruism, and personal integrity of health care workers. These special human qualities are evoked in this marble bust of a doctor, whose vocation is asserted by the rod of Asclepius, the symbol of medicine and healing, carved on the plinth. The portrait was made in 1844 by Dominique Maggesi, the leading sculptor in Bordeaux. It is exceptional among his portrayals of his contemporaries for its naturalism, which the artist must have felt appropriate to a man of science. The artist’s characterization of the intelligence and commitment of the doctor brings to mind Voltaire’s declaration that people who are occupied in the restoration of health to others, “by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create.”

Dawson Carr, The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art

Dominique Maggesi (French, born Italy, 1807–1892). Portrait of Dr. A …, 1844. Marble. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the May Van Dyke Fund, 2013.88.1, public domain