Two ceramic portrait busts, apparently from a series, one of American founding father George Washington and the other of German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. They are made of terracotta, and coated with a black slip, to simulate bronze. They demonstrate the skillful naturalistic modeling for which the sculptor, Rudolf Uffrecht, was known. The Washington portrait has the name "G. Washington" in raised block letters across the front, and is incised on the back with Uffrecht’s signature and copyrighted 1861. The von Humboldt is similarly titled "A. Humboldt" and incised beneath the base with Uffrecht's maker's mark. The date of manufacture on the George Washington bust, 1861, was early in Uffrecht's career, when he was a standout student at the Berlin Academy of the Arts.
Rudolf August Heinrich Matthias Uffrecht was a German painter and sculptor known for his terracotta portraits of musicians, artists, poets and political and historical figures, as well as allegorical and genre subjects. The eldest son of ceramics manufacturer Jakob Uffrecht, he studied at the Berlin Academy of the Arts with the sculptor Bernhard Afinger, winning three consecutive first prize awards in modeling and composition between 1860 and 1862. He started working for his father's factory, modeling terracotta figures and designing industrial ceramics. In the 1870s he traveled to the world exhibition in Vienna and also toured Germany, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. He opened his own studio in Rome in the 1880s, where he belonged to the German Association of Artists, a group of German artists in Rome. In 1891, he moved to Florence, then returned to Germany in 1895, living and working in Berlin from 1897. Uffrecht impressed contemporary critics with the naturalness of his figures and harmonious designs. He also produced literary works.
George Washington (1732-1799) led the Continental Army to victory over Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War and was the first president of the United States.
Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a prominent German scientist and world explorer of the 19th century. He embarked on one of the early expeditions to the interior regions of South America and Central America, charting the land and recording the flora and fauna, as well as the customs of native peoples.
Full inscription on Washington: R. Uffrecht. modelliert 1861. deponirt. [Modeled by R. Uffrecht. Registered 1861.]
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. p. 423.
Heinrich, Guido. "Uffrecht, Rudolf August Heinrich Matthias." Universität Magdeburg. 21 September 2005. http://www.uni-magdeburg.de/mbl/Biografien/1524.htm (24 February 2012).