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Rainbow Division Pietà

James Butler (1931-2022)


Signed, dated '08 and numbered X/X (on bronze base)


27 x 17 x 15 inches

John Meulkens, James Butler an Extended Personal View of a Collector, Radway: John Meulkens and James Butler, 2009 (Second Edition), pages 124-125 (life size Illustrated)

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London, 2011, no 1002;
'James Butler RA Remembered', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, May-June 2023, no 31

Number ten from an edition of ten
On a Kilkenny stone base measuring 1 3/4 x 12 x 12 inches

This is the maquette of the larger-than-life size version commissioned by the American, Nimrod Fraser. Butler’s powerful WW1 sculpture commemorates the men of the Rainbow Division. This highly emotive pieta, shows a soldier of the Rainbow Division carrying his dead comrade in his arms. It was first shown outside the Royal Academy in London in 2011 and it is now located at the site of the Battle of the Croix Rouge Farm in Fère-en-Tardenois, France. A second bronze was installed in Montgomery Alabama, in America. the Rainbow division is an infantry division created in 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany. It was made up of soldiers from 26 states and so became known as the Rainbow Division to reflect its myriad recruitment.
James Butler wrote of it:
'I was in the army myself and have a great admiration and sympathy for the lot of the common soldier and how sometimes the most ordinary man will rise to the heights of great bravery and concern for his fellow soldier.
In the Rainbow Division memorial, my original idea was to portray the powerful bond between men on active service with a soldier carrying his dead comrade.
However after working on the sculpture for some time the piece began to have a strong spiritual meaning for me.
The dead soldier is limp as if his body had just been lifted from the battlefield.
On a polished granite plinth measuring 12 x 12 x 2 inches
The figure holding the dead man began to have the presence of the Angel of Mercy. He is perfect – there are no battle scars on him and he is untouched by the grim conflict.
I am not a religious man, but working on this sculpture I felt a strong spiritual guidance.'

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