(Swedish, active in Lima, Peru, 1860-1892)
An Eagle, 1867
Carved cedar wood, 32 x 68 inches (81 x 173 cm)
Signed and dated, on the feathers:
Provenance: Private Collection, Argentina (until 2006)
Our knowledge of the career of Nicolás Young is extremely limited. He was Swedish of birth --his original surname appears to have been Nicolas Youngström-- as evidenced by an inscribed photograph of a sculpture of Neptune that was exhibited in 1869.[i] However, we do not know when he was born, what his training might have been, nor how he came to Peru. He married a woman from Lima, Maria Candelaria Osambela, in 1862.[ii] An 1870 portrait photograph shows the artist sporting a long black beard and holding a mallet and chisel next to a column on which are affixed several drawings, some of which, like a copy of Michelangelo’s Moses, seem to allude to his profession as a teacher. [iii] Another carte-de-viste photograph of him, taken by Rafael Castillo, is titled “Eminente Escultor Dn. Nicolás Young.”[iv] Several works by the artist are known through photographs: a standing St. John the Baptist, a Bishop Saint, a large relief titled The Lion of Iberia and the Virgin of America, and an escutcheon of a lion devouring a man.[v] All are vigorously carved tours-de-force, reflecting a lively imagination and extraordinary technique.
Young is best known today from his magnificent wooden sculpture America, o Genio del Progreso, proudly signed and dated by the sculptor 1872. Carved from a single piece of cedar and measuring, with its pedestal, three meters in height, this impressive work was awarded a silver medal in the Exposición Nacional of 1872.[vi] It remains one of the highlights of the collection of the Museo de Arte, Lima (MALI). The sculpture features an allegorical figure of America, raising a torch high over her head, a concept not unlike Bartholdi’s contemporary Statue of Liberty. The figure of America seems to be striding forward through flames onto a rock, below which a bald eagle protects its nesting young. The animation of the eagle and the vigorous and meticulous carving of the feathers is visible as well in the present sculpture, which is signed and dated on the tail feathers. Executed four years before America, it is a related, but wholly diverse composition, and a dramatic and realistic predecessor to the artist’s later allegorical work.
The present work is a magnificent portrayal of an eagle, its wings spread and tail-feathers seen behind its grasping talons. The original context of the work is not known. The vigorous carving and Young’s career far from his birthplace in Sweden, suggest that he may have been trained as a shipcarver, but the crisp condition of the sculpture indicates that the present sculpture has remained indoors since it was made.
First and Second Rows: Nicolas Young: America (Lima, MALI)
Third Row (left to right): Photograph of Nicolas Young (1870), credit: New York Public Library), and Nicolas Young: Neptune (1869), credit : Photograph, New York Public Library
[i] The photograph is inscribed, as follows: “Neptune” cut in wood by Nicolas Youngström, a Swedish sculpture [sic] in Lima, received a gold medal at the …national exhibition 1869.”
[ii] Martínez, Teodoro Hampe. “Una Dinámica De Integración Social: Inmigrantes Europeos y Norteamericanos En Lima (Siglo XIX).” Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv, vol. 17, no. 4, 1991, pp. 343–372.
[iii] The photograph is in the New York Public Library. As cited by Sofia Karina Pachas Maceda, Las artistas plásticas de Lima: 1891-1918 (Lima 2008), p. 93.
[iv] A copy is in the Museo Nacional de Historia, Lima. See Douglas Keith McElroy, “The History of Photography in Peru in the Nineteenth Century, 1839-1876,” unpub. Ph.D. diss, University of New Mexico 1977, p. 216, fig. 115.
[v] These photographs, taken by Villroy Richardson, are in the Photography Collection of the New York Public Library
[vi] Catálogo de la Exposición Nacional de 1872, (Lima 1872), p. 388, no. 13.