Allegory of Greek Independence
Object Name: Cake board
Dimensions: Overall: 15 3/4 x 26 x 1 1/2 in. ( 40 x 66 x 3.8 cm )
Place made: North America, United States, New York
Description: Rectangular wood cake board decorated with elaborately carved figures of "Brittania," "Greece," and "America" beneath an eagle with spread wings, all within an oval foliate frame.
Credit Line: Purchased from Elie Nadelman
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Object Number: 1937.591
Marks: carved: on obverse: "BRITTANIA / GREECE / AMERICA"
This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.
Molds created in New York were often elaborate and large, depicting major events of the day or simply embellished with symbols of luck and the New Year. This cake print is carved with a detailed allegorical scene referring to the Greek struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire. At Center, a weeping figure of Greece leans on a broken column, facing a Turk poised to strike her with a sword. A massive eagle hovers above, ready to crown Greece with a laurel wreath. At left, a personification of America subdues the Turk by grabbing his weapon. A benevolent Britannia accompanied by a lion stands at right, holding a banner inscribed "Byron," an allusion to the famous English poet, who became a hero after joining the Greek fight for independence in 1923. While the United States officially maintained a neutral stance, many Americans were sympathetic to the cause of Greek liberty. In 1824, New York philhellenes raised 6.600 sterling pounds to send to the Greek government.
The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman, Riverdale, NY
“Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman,” Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 6 - November 29, 2015; the New-York Historical Society, May 20 - August 21, 2016; and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, September 17 - December 31, 2016.