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Angel back on high - Museum reinstalls sculptor's scale model of famed work

Posted: 7/1/14

Gloucester Daily Times - A plaster model of one of the best-known works by one of Gloucester’s most famed sculptors was installed Monday at Cape Ann Museum. The work is part of museum’s ongoing $5 million capital campaign and renovation that has kept it closed this summer. It is scheduled to reopen August 19.

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The piece installed Monday is a plaster scale model, one of two owned by the museum of sculptor Walker Hancock’s famed “Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial.” Considered one of Hancock’s most important works, the actual sculpture is a 39-foot bronze, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and exhibited at the Thirtieth Street Station in Philadelphia.

The memorial, created between 1949 and 1952, depicts the archangel Michael lifting the body of a soldier. On its base, the sculpture bears the names of more than 1,300 employees of the railroad who died in World War II. Hancock created different pieces of the original work in his Gloucester and New York studios.

Hancock (1901-1998) lived in Gloucester’s Lanesville section and was a longtime friend and adviser to Cape Ann Museum, which has several of his most important works in its permanent collection. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Hancock came to Lanesville in the summer of 1921 to study under artist Charles Grafly.

Hancock’s famous subjects include Presidents George Bush, Abraham Lincoln and James Madison; Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Gerald Ford; poet Robert Frost; and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. His works are exhibited at the Library of Congress, West Point and the National Cathedral.Hancock’s statue depicts Michael pulling a dead soldier up into heaven from the battlefield. Flames can be seen directly below the soldier’s feet. (In the Book of Revelation, Michael defeats Satan in battle.) Hancock shaped the feathers in Michael’s wings like bayonets.

Monday’s installation was carried out by T.E. Andresen Movers of Salem, a company that specializes in fine art and museum work, and by the Randolph-based U.S. Art, which also specializes in the moving and handling of fine art. Sculptor Daniel Altshuler of Gloucester was there to oversee the operation. Altshuler was an apprentice of and assistant to Hancock for the last 10 years of his life. Late next week, Altshuler will climb the scaffolding and plaster over the cracks where the wings were severed from the archangel’s body for the move. He will also do some touch-up work to get it ready for public viewing.

The plaster model is 12 feet high and one of three in existence. The original is in the American Wing of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The actual finished piece is 391/2 feet high and was made from a mold in bronze.