Skip to main content
image alt

Thomas Ball

Freedom's Memorial


image alt

Thomas Ball’s sculpture Freedom’s Memorial commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, granting freedom to people enslaved in Confederate territories. Lincoln is depicted holding a document while gazing down at a newly freed slave whose idealized form, and especially his Phrygian cap connoting liberty, was meant to symbolically represent all those emancipated. Carved in marble, the work evinces a classically informed style typical of the mid-nineteenth century. For Americans this classicizing style signified ideals of logic, order, and deeply rooted tradition—especially appealing to the young nation seeking to prove itself on the international stage. Ball’s condensation of this complex historical event into a single scene is not without its problems, as its composition reinscribes racial power hierarchies and the slave’s idealized body shows no sign of the horrors of slavery. [Exhibition label, 2016]

  • Artist Thomas Ball (American, 1819–1911)
  • Title Freedom's Memorial
  • Date 1875
  • Medium Marble
  • Dimensions unframed | 44 1/2 x 27 1/4 x 21 1/8 in.
  • Credit line Gift of Reverend Dr. William Greenleaf Eliot
  • Object number WU 3782

Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 02/06/2023 - 06/25/2023

Colonizing the Past: Constructing Race in Ancient Greece and Rome
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 08/30/2021 - 12/27/2021

Installation of Professor Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp as the Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor
Holmes Lounge, Ridgley Hall, Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri), 10/30/2014 - 10/30/2014

The Civil War in Missouri
Missouri History Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), 11/12/2011 - 03/16/2013

Beginnings: The Taste of the Founders
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/21/2000 - 03/19/2000

Reverend Dr. William Greenleaf Eliot

Inscription [on front of base, engraved in marble:] "And upon this act --- I invoke the considerate judgement of mankind / and the gracious favour of Almighty God."

Inscription [on back of pillar, engraved in marble:] T. BALL / 1875

This artwork record may be incomplete or need refinement. Our staff actively researches the collection and revises records when new information is available. If you have questions or comments about this record, please contact us.