WILLIAM HENRY RINEHART (1825–1874)
Boy with Bird’s Nest [Robertson Kirtland Mygatt], 1874
Marble, 35 1/2 in. high x 24 1/2 in. long x 12 in. wide
Signed, dated, and inscribed (on the back of base): WM H RINEHART. SCULPT. ROME. 1874; inscribed (on the proper right side of rock): KIRTLAND. 1868
RECORDED: Marvin Chauncey Ross and Anna Wells Rutledge, A Catalogue of the Work of William Henry Rinehart: Maryland Sculptor, 1825–1874 (1948), p. 60 no. 113
EXHIBITED: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1996–97, A Marvellous Repose: American Neo-Classical Sculpture, 1825–1876, p. 41, no. 28 p. 47, p. 40 illus. in color
EX COLL.: Mrs. Sarah Matilda Robertson Mygatt, New York, until 1920; to her son, Otis Angelo Mygatt, Cobham, Surrey, England, in 1931
Boy with Bird’s Nest is a portrait of Robertson Kirtland Mygatt (1861–1919). Mygatt was the son of Jared Potter Kirtland Mygatt (1832–1866) and his wife, Sarah Matilda Robertson Mygatt (d. 1920). Jared Mygatt, a native of Poland, Ohio, was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1853. He married Sarah Matilda Robertson in 1858 in New York City. Mrs. Mygatt came from a noted New York family. Her paternal grandfather was the well-known New York portraitist and drawing teacher, Archibald Robertson, whose wife, Eliza Abramse Robertson, was also an artist. Her uncle, Anthony Lispenard Robertson, achieved distinction as a lawyer and jurist. Sarah’s father, Jacob A. Robertson, was a dry goods merchant who prospered sufficiently to move his family to fashionable Washington Square in Greenwich Village by 1840-41. After Sarah Robertson and Jared Mygatt married, they lived with her family on Washington Square.
In 1860, Rinehart produced a likeness of Sarah Robertson Mygatt (Historical Society of Carroll County, Westminster, Maryland; gift of Susan Kellogg). In 1866, when Jared Potter Kirtland Mygatt was only thirty-four years old, he died of consumption, leaving behind a widow and two young sons, Robertson Kirtland, born October 6, 1861, and Otis Angelo, born June 4, 1863. Rinehart’s records for 1868 indicate that he modeled both of Mrs. Mygatt’s sons in that year. The elder child, Robertson Kirtland, was shown holding a bird’s nest, while Otis Angelo was posed as “Cupid Stringing His Bow” (Ricau Collection, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia). Both works were listed as plaster casts in the studio inventory when Rinehart died in 1874. They were both translated into marble in 1874.
The inscription “Kirtland, 1868,” on the side of Boy with Bird’s Nest refers, obviously, to Robertson Mygatt’s middle name. The statue, modeled two years after Jared Mygatt’s death, records his family name that lived on with his eldest son. In 1883 Sarah Robertson Mygatt lent the sculptures of her two sons to the fledgling Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they were displayed with Rinehart’s ideal group, Latona and Her Children. In 1905, Otis Mygatt’s statue was returned to the family. Boy with Bird’s Nest remained at the Museum until 1931, when it was sent to the surviving member of the family, Otis Mygatt, who, at that time was living at Burwood House, Cobham, Surrey, England.
Robertson Mygatt lived his adult life in New York and Connecticut. He enjoyed a modestly successful career as a landscape painter, showing his work at the National Academy of Design, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; The Boston Art Club; and the Art Institute of Chicago.