Billy (1914)

by Albert Laessle (1877 - 1954)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin © 2018 for the Association for Public Art
Rittenhouse Square, Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Streets
1914

  • Title

    Billy

  • Artist

    Albert Laessle (1877 - 1954)

  • Year

    1914; installed 1919; recast 2018

  • Medium

    Bronze on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 2'2″ (base 1’10”)

  • Themes

    The Animal Kingdom

Gift of Eli Kirke Price II to the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • Rendered after artist Albert Laessle’s family goat

  • Laessle portrayed animals so realistically that he was charged with casting directly from life

  • The sculpture was recast in 2018 because it showed significant signs of wear after a century of being loved by children

Billy sculpture with a young girl, 1919
A young child stands with Billy in 1919, the year the sculpture was installed. Photo © Association for Public Art

Billy, inspired by and rendered after a family goat, was one of several animal studies that Albert Laessle created. Laessle’s work portrayed animals so realistically that – according to his own recollections – he was once charged by his fellow students with casting directly from life. He silenced his critics by making a similar sculpture in wax, a material that could not easily be cast.

Billy was given to the City of Philadelphia by Eli Kirke Price II through the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art), and was installed in 1919 to the delight of the many children who have frequented Rittenhouse Square since that time. A later sculptural group of Pan, Dancing Goat, and Duck and Turtle (c. 1928) is installed in Camden, New Jersey, in a park in front of the Walt Whitman Center, formerly a public library.

Billy by Albert Laessle
The original Billy, which was showing significant signs of wear after a century of being loved by children. Photo Alec Rogers © 2015 for the Association for Public Art

In 2018, the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (Creative Philadelphia) oversaw the conservation of the artwork. After a century of being climbed on and exposed to the elements, the bronze sculpture began to wear thin in certain areas. A new cast of Billy was installed in September 2018, and the original work will be moved indoors to the children’s room of the Philadelphia City Institute library branch in Rittenhouse Square. Read more here.

 

RESOURCES

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Philip Price Jr. is the grandson of Eli Kirk Price II, who was responsible for purchasing Billy for installation in Rittenhouse Square.

Nancy Heinzen is the author of The Perfect Square, a history of Rittenhouse Square. She has been a resident of Rittenhouse Square for over 40 years and is committed to its preservation.

Philip Hyun Su and Sarah Mi Ae Price are the great-great-grandchildren of Eli Kirk Price II.

Segment Producer: Sharon Mashihi

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, or on our website – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation.

Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

LEARN MORE >>

 

This artwork is part of the Around Rittenhouse Square tour

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