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To modest fanfare, members of the Occupy Movement in McPherson Square on Monday covered the statue of the eponymous Civil War general with a hand-painted tarp festooned with stars and dubbed the “Tent of Dreams.” The equestrian statue of James Birdseye McPherson (yes, Birdseye!) was designed by sculptor Louis T. Rebisso (1837-1893), who was a longtime professor of sculpture at the University of Cincinnati School of Design, and is known for statues of Ulysses S. Grant in Chicago and William Henry Harrison in his adopted city of Cincinnati. The Feb. 5, 1876 issue of The American Architect and Building News praises the work, then still awaiting bronze casting, as “a colossal statue, the figure of the rider measuring eight feet high, and more; and represents Gen. McPherson suddenly reining in his horse, and earnestly scanning the distance of some field of battle.”
Rebisso achieved success in the U.S., despite difficult beginnings. According to a capsule biography published in the Iconographic Encyclopaedia of the Arts and Sciences, he emigrated from his native Genoa in 1857 after political conditions made it dangerous for him to remain. An ardent patriot and small-r republican, Rebisso was a supporter of the Young Italy movement led by Giuseppe Mazzini that aimed to end rule by foreign potentates and local nobility, curtail the temporal power of the Vatican and unite Italy under a national government. The Young Italy movement was brutally suppressed in its time, and most of its leading adherents were forced to live out their days in political exile. Perhaps worth commending to the Occupiers is this passage from Mazzini’s Manifesto of Young Italy: “Great revolutions are the work rather of principles than of bayonets, and are achieved first in the moral, and afterwards in the material sphere.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery