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Louis Rosenthal Miniature Sculpture Collection

 Collection
Identifier: BHILR-0001

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of bronze miniature sculptures ranging between one to four inches in height. Other items include bronzes, bas-reliefs, and medallions. The themes of the sculptures are historical, mythological, biblical, satirical, and whimsical in nature.

Dates

  • 1888 - 1964

Biographical / Historical

Louis Rosenthal was born as Leon Chantel (Chanel) in Plungyon, Lithuania on February 20, 1888, and was the sixth child of seven children of Rebecca and Hyman Chatel. From his early childhood years he was known to go out into the forest and experiment with carving his first etchings into the bark of trees, and it was here that the mythological figures that will later be reflected in his miniature sculptures first came to life and captured his imagination. Early on he studied in the Yeshiva until he was old enough to enter his father’s milling business, but his artistic interests never faded. When he was 17 years old, Rosenthal received the attention of a teacher in a Viennese school of painting, who urged him to go to Berlin to get artistic training, where he stayed for several months. Then at the age of 19, and after the passing of his father, Rosenthal immigrated to the United States.

After a short stay in Birdsnest, Va., where his name was officially changed to Louis Rosenthal, he left for Baltimore, Md., where he was introduced to Ephraim Keyser, the head of the Rinehart School of Sculpture (now known as the Maryland Institute College of Art, MICA). He received a four year scholarship to the school, and during this time he won several prizes and began receiving recognition in Baltimore, Md. as a young talented sculptor. While pursuing his studies, Rosenthal met his future wife, Dorothy “Dolly” Rosenthal (Levin), and they married in 1917, the same year Louis Rosenthal became a citizen of the United States of America. After graduating from MICA, Rosenthal worked for jewelers and dental offices, working with settings and inlays, and around 1918 he started working with miniature sculptures when he was designing a bronze ring commissioned by opera singer, Enrico Caruso. After finishing this piece, Rosenthal worked on developing a method of casting tiny figures from wax into bronze himself as no foundry in the world could manage to work with figures so small. Between 1918 and 1924, he developed a process to do so, and sources say that in his excitement to rush home and tell his wife about it, he managed to destroy his newly created cast and lost the solution he had worked so hard to develop. It took him three months to rediscover it.

To make his miniature sculptures, Rosenthal started by carving the model out of black wax with a simple pearl-handled penknife, and he was known for not using a magnifying glass when working with his sculptures. The casting was done by hollow casting or the lost-wax casting process. This process involves coating the sculpted wax with a special solution and then evaporating the wax figure to create a mold which can then be used to create the sculpture. Rosenthal’s process was unknown until after his death in 1964 when a group of scientists at the Consolidated Dental Laboratories tested his process. Prevalent themes of his work are historical, mythological, biblical, satirical, and whimsical in nature.

His first success came about in 1925 with an exhibit held in a Fifth Avenue gallery in New York City, in which almost all of his 40 miniature sculptures were sold and an ensuing article was published in the New York Times. As the story goes, Rosenthal did not know about the success of his show until he saw his name in the newspaper. He did not have enough money to purchase the newspaper so he ran 38 blocks to the reading room of the New York Public Library to read the art critic’s review praising his work. Thereafter, museums and galleries in New York, Washington D.C., London, and Jerusalem exhibited his artworks, and his sculptures are now part of museum collections including the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museums of New York and Maryland, and the Louis Rosenthal Museum.

Besides exhibits of his work, Rosenthal also received notable commissions over the course of his artistic career. One of those commissions was for a memorial plaque for the late Governor Albert C. Ritchie in the summer of 1937, and other commissioned artworks included, “The Dawn of Maryland Freedom” and a gift to Lord Balfour, Prime Minister of England. The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers were so impressed by his work that they extended an invitation for him to join the society.

Louis Rosenthal passed away at John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md., in 1964 due to a heart attack. With a lively imagination and vast knowledge of history and mythology, Rosenthal drew on stories and characters from mythology, folklore, the Old Testament, and everyday life for the subjects of his sculptures. At his funeral Louis L. Kaplan, the head of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute gave his eulogy, and in it he states that Rosenthal may not have had a successful career financially, but he did make an impact on the people who saw his work.

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Overview

Louis Rosenthal was born in Plungyon, Lithuania on February 20, 1888, and was the sixth child of seven children of Rebecca and Hyman Chatel. In 1907, at the age of 19, he immigrated to the United States, and after a short stay in Birdsnest, Va., he moved to Baltimore, Md. to pursue a career in art. He was awarded a four year scholarship to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where he won several prizes and began receiving recognition in Baltimore, Md. as a young talented sculptor. His first success came about in 1925 with an exhibit held in a Fifth Avenue gallery in New York City, in which most of the sculptures were sold and an ensuing article was published in the New York Times. He went on to receive international acclaim for creating miniature sculptures by casting tiny figures from wax into bronze himself as no foundry in the world could manage to work with figures so small. Rosenthal died in 1964 in Baltimore, Md.

The bulk of the collection consists of bronze miniature sculptures ranging between one to four inches in height. Other items include bronzes, bas-reliefs, and medallions. The themes of the sculptures are historical, mythological, biblical, satirical, and whimsical in nature.

Arrangement

The sculptures are arranged numerically in two acid-free boxes and are separated by partitions within these boxes. Items: BHILR025, BHILR026, BHILR027, BHILR029, BHILR030, and BHILR031 are encased in their own individual enclosures.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the miniatures are available at https://cdm17252.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/bhilr.

Bibliography

“17 Foreigners Rush To Become Citizens.” The Baltimore Sun, 29 Nov. 1917: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

“2 Baltimore Sculptors Get Tercentenary Commission.” The Baltimore Sun, 15 April 1934: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

Arnett, Earl. “Sculpture puzzle solved by lab.” The Baltimore Sun, 11 Jan. 1974: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

"Art: Some Notable Exhibitions of the Week in New York Galleries." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 30, 1924. http://search.proquest.com/docview/103277554?accountid =14378 (accessed April 11, 2012). “Baltimore Designs and Executes Tribute of Zionists to Balfour.” The Baltimore Sun, 2 Dec. 1923: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

“First Ritchie Memorial Put in Druid Hill.” The Baltimore Sun, 30 Aug. 1937: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

Kirkley, Donald. “He carved the way to a Career: Ephraim Keyser Began Sculpture on a Discarded Clock.” The Baltimore Sun, 17 June 1928: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

Kirkley, Donald. “A Worker in heroic Miniatures: Louis Rosenthal Had His Troubles.” The Baltimore Sun, 8 Jan. 1928: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com

“Miniature Balfour Shaft To Be on Exhibition Here,” The Baltimore Sun, 14 June 14 1923: n. pag. Proquest. Web. April 2012. www.proquest.com The Louis Rosenthal Museum. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. /www.louisrosenthalmuseum.org/>.
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Towson University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Contact:
Albert S. Cook Library
8000 York Rd
Towson MD 21252 United States