Angel of Equality, Thomas Jefferson Monument

Angel of Equality, Thomas Jefferson Monument
Virginia Union University
Image by elycefeliz
“Almighty God has created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens are a departure from the plan of the Author of our religion. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religion, worship or ministry, or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matter of religion. "
~ Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Statue in front of Louisville Metro Hall (5th & Jefferson Streets) that was made by Moses Ezekiel and given to the city in 1901.

A full-length portrait of Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence and standing atop a replica of the Liberty Bell. Four allegorical winged female figures are placed around the bell — Liberty faces south; Equality looks east; Justice faces the west; and Brotherhood of Man and Religious Freedom look north.


Moses Ezekiel
From the humblest origins, Moses Jacob Ezekiel sought a public education at America’s first state military college, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) during the Civil War. While at VMI, he fought as a member of the VMI Cadet Battalion on the Confederate side at the Battle of Newmarket (May 15, 1864). There he witnessed the deaths and maimings of some of his closest friends. He remained with the cadet corps and fought in the Richmond trenches in defense of his native city. After the war, Ezekiel returned to VMI and graduated in 1866. He then launched a brilliantly successful artistic career in Europe where, despite a long life as an émigré, he remained close to his American and Virginian roots.

One of 14 children, Ezekiel was born on October 28, 1844 in Richmond, Virginia, in a now-demolished house on "Old Market Street," on the west side of 17th Street between Main and Franklin, in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. The family also lived in a house (demolished in the 1930’s) on the southeast corner of Marshall and 12th. His grandparents, of Spanish-Jewish origin, had immigrated in 1808 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from Holland—where the family had fled some 400 years earlier following the Spanish Inquisition.

By the beginning of the American Civil War, Ezekiel had quit school and was engaged in the mercantile business when he decided to go to college. VMI, as a public college and then under a wartime regime, was one of the few institutions available to him at reasonable cost and considering his relatively poor academic preparation. His mother, Catherine de Castro Ezekiel, appreciated that the wartime situation might lead him to fight for the South. She admonished him, as she sent him off to VMI to learn the arts of war, that she wouldn’t have a son who would not fight for his home and country.

Considering the well-documented anti-Semitic prejudice pervasive in Richmond and America at that time, his mother’s was a courageous and benevolent attitude (which her son seemed to share).

Ezekiel later explained his reasons for going to VMI and, by implication, fighting for the Confederacy. He asserted that he’d gone there, not to defend slavery—an institution which, in this thinking, had unfortunately been inherited and limited by Virginia. Rather, Ezekiel further asserted, he went there to defend Virginia when she seceded to avoid providing troops to the Union to "subjugate her sister Southern states". These views were typical of the VMI cadets of that period, ignoring the fact that his state in 1868 had the largest slave population in the South and, over the previous 30 years, had exported 200,000 slaves to the other Southern states.

One of the lasting memories of the Class of 1866 was the May 1863 death and funeral of Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who had spent the last 12 years of his life on VMI’s faculty. Ezekiel was one of the corporals of the guard—who had the primary mission of ensuring that overzealous cadets didn’t pluck too many floral souvenirs from "Stonewall’s" heavily bedecked metal casket as it lay in state in his old VMI classroom—before Jackson’s burial.

In his final year, he came to the attention of Robert E. Lee, newly resident in Lexington as the president of Washington College, and Lee’s wife. Lee encouraged him to pursue his artistic talents: "I hope you will be an artist, as it seems to me you are cut out for one. But, whatever you do, try to prove to the world that if we did not succeed in our struggle, we are worthy of success, and do earn a reputation in whatever profession you undertake."

With little point in returning home to Richmond, where his parents had lost everything and opportunities were non-existent, Ezekiel followed the advice of Cincinnati artists and went abroad to Berlin. In the German capital, he studied at the Royal Art Academy. There he earned money by teaching English and selling some of his works.

His sculptures were in the romantic, elaborate and ornate style which was highly popular in the Victorian era. Ezekiel accomplished some 200 works in his prolific career. Among his greatest was a marble group, "Religious Liberty," or "Religious Freedom," created for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. He did an allegorical statue o Thomas Jefferson for Louisville, Kentucky, and a replica for the University of Virginia.

A less well-known, Civil War-related work, a bronze entitled "The Outlook," depicts a Confederate soldier (accomplished in 1910) looking our at Lake Erie from the Confederate cemetery at the site of the former prisoner-of-war camp at Johnson’s Island, Ohio—where many of his fellow VMI men had been imprisoned and several were buried. In 1910 he made what appears to have been a final visit to the U.S. where he was a guest at the VMI commencement. His last work (1917) was a bronze statue of a fellow Richmond resident and artist, Edgar Allen Poe, later in Baltimore’s Wyman Park.

When World War I trapped Ezekiel in Rome, he put aside his sculptures to help organize the American-Italian Red Cross. Shortly afterward however, on March 27, 1917, he died in Rome, where he had maintained his studio in the Baths of Diocletian. His body was shipped aboard the Duca degli Abruzzi from Naples, Italy, on February 27, 1921. In a March 31, 1921, burial ceremony—the first held in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, and presided over by U.S. Secretary of War John W. Weeks, Ezekiel was laid to rest next to his Confederate memorial. Flanking his flower-bedecked and American-flag covered casket, were six VMI cadet captains and two other cadets.

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