Frederick George Richard Roth (1872-1944) created this whimsical sculpture of Mother Goose and her related fables. The statue consists of the central figure of a witch astride a goose, surrounded by bas-reliefs of Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, Little Jack Horner, Mother Hubbard, and Mary and her little lamb. Roth and a team of craftsmen carved this work of art from a 13-ton piece of Westerly granite.
Frederick G. R. Roth was born in Brooklyn on April 28, 1872. He studied art privately in Vienna, and also at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. By the time he completed his studies in 1894, he had already embarked on an active professional career as a sculptor. It was his Roman Chariot group at the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, however, which first garnered him significant attention and placed him at “the forefront of America’s young sculptors.”
Following this success, he was in much demand. The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a series of small animal sculptures that Roth crafted early in the 20th century. A figure of a polar bear by Roth was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, and he received a silver medal at the Saint Louis Exposition the same year. In 1910 Roth modeled a horse as part of Augustus Lukemen’s equestrian composition, Kit Carson, displayed in Trinidad, Colorado. At the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915, Roth collaborated with Alexander Stirling Calder (1870–1945) and Leo Lentelli (1879–1962) on the celebrated sculptural groups Nations of the East and West. Roth’s talents earned him membership in many arts organizations, including the National Academy of Design (1902), the Society of American Artists (1903) and the National Sculpture Society (1910); he later served as the latter organization’s president. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 1924 Speyer Prize from the National Academy of Design for his portrait of the celebrated Alaskan sled dog, Balto. This statue was unveiled in Central Park on December 16, 1925.
In 1934, Roth was hired through the Works Progress Administration as the chief sculptor for Parks. In that year, the new Central Park Zoo opened, and Roth oversaw a team of artisans who carved the limestone animal reliefs that adorn the animal houses. The following year the same team worked on the sculptural embellishments for the Prospect Park Zoo, and in 1936 Roth completed the granite statues of figures from Alice in Wonderland which stand at the center of the Sophie Irene Loeb fountain in Central Park’s James Michael Levin Playground.
In the spring of 1937 Roth’s Dancing Goat and Dancing Bear sculptures were placed in basins which flanked Kelly’s Cafeteria at the western terrace of the Central Park Zoo, and now stand in niches near the north and south entrances to the zoo.
Within close proximity to the Mother Goose statue, which stands at the entrance to the Mary Harriman Rumsey Playfield near the East Drive just south of the 72nd transverse road, visitors to Central Park can find several sculptures of special interest to children. These include Jose De Creeft’s Alice in Wonderland at the north end of Conservatory Water (the model boat pond), the statue of Hans Christian Anderson and the Ugly Duckling (1956) by Georg John Lober on the west side of the model boat pond, the Sophie Irene Loeb Fountain near East 76th Street, and Balto, west of the East Drive at 67th Street.
Mother Goose Details
- Location: Rumsey Playground, E. Drive at 72nd St.
- Sculptor: Fred. G.R. Roth, Walt. Beretta
- Description: Group on pedestal
- Materials: Stony Creek and Deer Isle granites
- Dimensions: H: 8'8" W: 4'6" D: 5'10"
- Dedicated: 1938
- Fabricator: J. Cacioppo, R. Anslow (?)
- Donor: DPR
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