Moses Jacob Ezekiel (October 28, 1844
– March 27, 1917) was an American sculptor who lived and worked in
Rome for the majority of his career.
Life and career
Ezekiel was born in Richmond, Virginia, and attended the common
schools. He was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, was
the first Jewish cadet to attend VMI. He and other
cadets from VMI marched 80 miles north from Lexington and fought at
the 1864 Battle of New Market, where Ezekiel was wounded in a fight
with Union army troops under Franz Sigel. After his recovery, he
served with the cadets in Richmond to train new recruits for the
army. Shortly before the end of the war, he served in the trenches
defending the city.
Following the Civil War, Ezekiel
returned to VMI to finish his education, graduating in 1866. He
moved to Cincinnati in 1868, then to Berlin in 1869, where he
studied at the Royal Academy of Art under Professor Albert Wolf. In
Europe he completed the sculptures and paintings for which he is
famous, including a memorial at VMI, Virginia Mourning Her Dead,
that stands in the small cemetery where the six of the 10 VMI Cadets
killed at the Battle of New Market are buried. He was admitted into
the Society of Artists, Berlin, and at age 29 was the first
foreigner to win the Michel-Beer Prix de Rome for a bas relief
In the early 1880s, Ezekiel created
eleven larger-than-life sized statues of famous artists that were
installed in niches on the facade of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's
original building (now the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery). In the
early 1960s, they were removed to the Norfolk Botanical Garden in
Although Ezekiel never married, he
is known to have fathered one illegitimate child, Alice Johnson,
whose mother was a mulatto maid. Johnson, who never took her
father's name, although she remained in contact with him throughout
his life, became a school teacher and later married the prominent
African American surgeon Daniel Hale Williams.
Ezekiel died in his studio in Rome, Italy, and was temporarily
entombed there. In 1921, he was buried at the foot of his
Confederate Memorial in Section 16 of Arlington National Cemetery.
The inscription on his grave reads "Moses J. Ezekiel Sergeant of
Company C Battalion of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute."
Awards and honors
In his lifetime, Ezekiel received numerous honors including being
decorated by King Umberto I of Italy, the "Crosses for Merit and
Art" from the Emperor of Germany, another from Prince Frederick
Johann of Saxe-Meiningen, and the awards of "Chevalier" and "Officer
of the Crown of Italy" (1910) from King Victor Emmanuel III of
Italy. Ezekiel received the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of
Palermo, Italy; the Silver Medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase
Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Raphael Medal from the
Art Society of Urbino, Italy.
The honorific "Sir" by which
Ezekiel is often referred is technically incorrect, as Ezekiel was
not knighted by the monarch of the United Kingdom. More properly,
his title was "Cavaliere" Moses Ezekiel, because of his Italian
knighthood, or Moses "Ritter von" Ezekiel, because of his German
honors. Ezekiel initiated this error by translating his Italian
title into the English "Sir" on his visiting cards, resulting in the
honorific by which he is now commonly known.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bas relief of Sarah Workum, private collection.
Virginia Mourning Her Dead (1903),
Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, VA.
Anthony J. Drexel (1904), Drexel
University, Philadelphia, PA.
Bust of Anthony J. Drexel
(1905), Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA.
Homer (1907), University of
Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
The Lookout (1910), Confederate
Cemetery, Johnson's Island, OH.
Jefferson Monument (1910),
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
Bust of Andrew Gregg Curtin (1912), Smith Memorial Arch,
Confederate Soldiers Memorial
(1914), Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
Statue of Edgar Allan Poe
(1917), University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland.