Cavaliere Moses Jacob Ezekiel also known as Moses "Ritter von" Ezekiel (October 28, 1844 – March 27, 1917) was a Jewish American soldier and 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; he 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 entitled "Israel".
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 Norfolk, Virginia.
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 German Emperor, 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.
- Bust of Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Piazza di Spagna, Rome.
- Bust of Franz Liszt.
- Napoleon of St. Helena, statue in Rome, Italy.
- Religious Liberty (1876). Originally installed in Fairmount Park, now installed at the National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Eve Hearing the Voice (1876), Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Faith (1877), Peabody Institute, Baltimore, Maryland.
- 11 Statues of Artists: Phidias, Raphael, Durer, Michelangelo, Titian, Murillo, Da Vinci, Correggio, Van Dyke, Canova, Thomas Crawford (1879–84). Originally installed in niches on the facade of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Now installed at "Statuary Vista", Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, Virginia.
- Bust of Jessica (1880), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
- Bust of Judith (c. 1880), Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Ecce Homo (1884), Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Bust of Thomas Jefferson (1888), United States Capitol, Washington, DC.
- Statue of Christopher Columbus (1892), Arrigo Park, Chicago, Illinois. Commissioned for the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition.
- Jefferson Monument (1901), Louisville Metro Hall, Louisville, Kentucky.
- A 1910 replica of this is at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
- Virginia Mourning Her Dead (1903), Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia.
- A replica of this is at the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia.
- Statue of Anthony J. Drexel (1904), Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Bust of Anthony J. Drexel (1905), Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Statue of Homer (1907), University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
- Statue of Stonewall Jackson (1910), West Virginia State Capitol, Charleston, West Virginia.
- A replica of this is at the Virginia Military Institute.
- The Lookout (1910), Confederate Cemetery, Johnson's Island, Ohio.
- Bust of Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin (1912), Smith Memorial Arch, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Confederate Memorial (1914), Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
- Statue of Edgar Allan Poe (1917), University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Eve Hearing the Voice from Cincinnati Art Museum.
- Faith from Peabody Art Collection.
- Statuary Vista from Norfolk Botanical Garden.
- Jessica from Flickr.
- Judith from Cincinnati Art Museum.
- Ecce Homo, (sculpture) from Smithsonian Institution CollectionsSearchCenter.
- Jefferson from U.S. Senate.
- Columbus Statue from Waymarking.com.
- Stonewall Jackson
- Governor Curtin bust from Philadelphia Public Art.
- Confederate Soldiers Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery.
- Poe Statue from University of Baltimore Law School.
In popular culture
Ezekiel was portrayed by Josh Zuckerman in the 2014 film Field of Lost Shoes, which depicted the Battle of New Market.