|January 2001||Volume 3 Number 1|
Mark Jones, State Archivist
Every year, thousands pass the front façade of the Connecticut State Library Building at 231 Capitol Ave in Hartford. I wonder how many take the time to look at the statuary at the top? The figures represent Art, Science, Justice, and History.
Frenchman Francois Michel Louis Tonnetti was the sculptor. He was a student of the Beaux - Arts School and his works include statues in the Library of Congress, on the facades of the New York Public Library, the Boston Public Library, and St. Louis Museum, and on the grounds of the Rockefeller estate at Pocontico Hills, New York. His style fit that of the new Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court Building. Through a friendship with Donn Barber, the building's chief architect, Tonnetti received the commission in 1913 to sculpt the figures for the Library. He completed them at his studio in New York City in September 1913 and supervised the figures' placement on the Library in October.
We know very little about the models, except for one, Rae M. Jones, the model for "History." In January 1916, she appeared in a musical comedy with the "Persian Company" at the Palace Theater, Hartford. Although she had a successful career as a model in New York for six years, she decided to start another career in musicals. The work, she emphasized, was easier. Nevertheless, she reminisced about Tonnetti with a reporter from the Hartford Courant.
She claimed that she was "Tony's" (that's what the models called him only among themselves) favorite model. The story noted that she had won second place in a models contest in New York for the "perfect woman" and that her hands "were said to be the most beautiful in the City", appearing in many portraits. "Tony always thought it [History] was the best of the four." She not only modeled for History but, the story revealed, "the torso of the companion figures is hers."
Jones posed for ten months on Tonnetti's project. In October 1913 she and the sculptor visited Hartford but did not see the entire figure because scaffolding blocked the view. Back in Hartford in 1916, she took a tour of the State Library given by State Librarian George Godard and finally looked upon her likeness.
Next time you are at the front of the State Library and Supreme Court Building, look up at the statuary, and think of the model who went into show business but who was forever immortalized by sculptor Francois Tonnetti.
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