During my professional engineering career, I found myself traveling on numerous occasions to Washington. One occasion I had visited the capitol building, surprisingly it is within this structure that two fine pieces of sculpture are housed, the busts of Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski and I am here to tell you their story.
The presence of these busts came to light more than a few decades ago when Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey dramatically exposed the fact that the Pulaski and Kosciuszko marble busts were badly placed in an obscure Senate wing. The busts were then relocated with the help of Senator Muskie.
The gifted sculptor who created these fine marble portraits was the soldier-patriot Henry Dmochowski-Saunders (1810-1863) and this, in fact, now becomes his story…..
We begin with Henry Dmochowski graduating with a law degree from the University of Wilno. In the Insurrection of 1831, we find him fighting in the ranks of the many patriots. After the Insurrection failed, he continued to organize Polish partisan both in France and in Austrian Galicia. Eventually, Dmochowski was feretted out and sentenced to a five year prison term.
Finally, at the age of 30, he was released and once again breathing the air of freedom. He went to France and plunged in to a career of art, concentrating on sculpture. His transition from law to sculpture was quite remarkable — bordering on the genius level — because in a decade, the sculptor was a recognized artist.
In 1851, Dmochowski came to America first living in Brooklyn and then in Philadelphia. In five years here, he presented a total of seventy medallions, three plaques and several busts, including that of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Washington, and Kosciuszko. As a matter of fact, Kosciuszko was first exhibited in 1856 and Thomas Jefferson plaster in 1857.
Henry Dmochowski visited the American Capitol in 1857 and exhibited some of his fine works including the Kosciuszko bust which he sold to the Capitol’s Library Commission. Due to his fine work, they also commissioned Dmochowski to do a bust of Pulaski for an estimated $2,500. The Kosciuszko bust cost approximately $500.
It took Dmochowski 18 months before he finished the Pulaski bust and when he brought it along with Kosciuszko to Washington, the Library Commission refused to pay the $2,500.
This refusal culminated in one of Henry Dmochowski’s saddest periods. In March of 1855, he and his wife lost their twin daughters and then in July 1857, his wife, Helena died.
The tragedy left its mark on Henry Dmochowski. He tried to immortalize his grief by cutting his finest work — a marble statue of his beloved wife holding her two children in her arms. He labored well over a year on the memorial and placed it on their graves in a Philadelphia cemetery. It is said that upon its completion, Dmochowski threw his tools into the Schuykill River “so that they may float back to Poland”.
Because of the Library Commission’s attitude Dmochowski became embittered further and left for Poland in 1860 – just as the Civil War threatened America.
In Poland, he created one of his finest pieces, a statue of the wife of King Sigismund August, Barbara Radziwill. But, before he began any other memorials, the Uprising of 1863 began. It stirred him and, once again, Dmochowski plunged into secretive preparation of fighting for his homeland. In a short time, he organized over a hundred Polish partisans and crossed from Austrian Poland to Russian Poland to join in the battle of freedom.
In the course of the march, his group came upon a Russian detachment near Ponicz and in the encounter Henry Dmochowski was killed along with many of his men. He died as a true Polish patriot just as so many of the heroes he had sculptured prior to his own death.
The Pulaski bust was eventually purchased in 1882 by a Dr. Kenry Kalussowski, a friend of Dmochowski who lived in American. It was then “secretly” donated to the Capitol and eventually placed in the North Lobby of the Senate Gallery.
At this point in time, I myself, do not know the exact locations of the Pulaski & Kosciuszko busts, but hopefully they are still in the Senate complex. If you happen to be in Washington and locate the busts, then by all means think of the sculptor that is missing, Henry Dmochowski.
SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING!