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Bust of a Youth

Isaac Broome, American, 1835 - 1922

Made in United States, North and Central America

c. 1860


19 x 14 x 10 inches (48.3 x 35.6 x 25.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2007

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Born in Quebec, Canada, Isaac Broome was raised in Philadelphia, where he took up wood and stone carving before beginning studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1850s. He began to exhibit at the Academy in 1855, showing the first of many portrait busts that appeared regularly in PAFA annuals through the 1870s. Broome traveled in Italy, France and England in 1857-58, visiting museums and collecting art for American patrons. He held a studio in Rome for a time, where he produced his first marble portrait busts and developed a life-long interest in antique and modern ceramics. Broome resumed his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1860, and was elected an Associate that same year. The following year, at the young age of 26, he won the rank of full Academician.

Broome's early mastery is illustrated in the finely modeled features and tousled hair of his Bust of a Youth, probably signed "Sculptor/ Philada" not long after his return from Europe. It displays a blend of neoclassic idealism, seen in the work of the older generation of American sculptors, Hiram Powers and Randolph Rogers, married to the more naturalistic spirit of the 1860s. Although wrapped in classical drapery, the bust has the youthful presence and specificity of a particular sitter.

Broome's career as a marble sculptor was relatively brief, and extant examples of his work are very rare. He moved to Pittsburgh to open a terracotta works in 1865, and then to Brooklyn in 1871. By 1875, he was established at the Etruria Pottery in Trenton, where he designed and modeled ceramic ware such as the famed Baseball Vase that won him a medal at the Centennial exhibition. A committed advocate of "Ruskinian" craft education and fair workplace conditions, Broome remained involved as a teacher, designer, and technical expert with various ceramics firms in New Jersey, including Lenox, until early in the twentieth century.