Physical Dimensions: w71.12 x h143.51 x d95.25 (work)
Label Copy: Rogers's Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii was an immensely popular sculpture of the late nineteenth century. It was inspired by a character from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's widely read 1834 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii, which tells the tragic story of Nydia, a blind slave girl. Nydia falls passionately in love with her owner, Glaucus, who, unbeknownst to her, is in love with another woman. When Mount Vesuvius erupts, Pompeii is enveloped in ash, that blocks out the sun and cloaks the city in darkness. Since Nydia is blind, she is still able to navigate the streets, and she guides Glaucus and his lover to the harbor, where all three find safety aboard a ship. When Nydia realizes that Glaucus's heart belongs to another, she throws herself into the sea. Rogers pictures the dramatic moment when Nydia has become separated from her companions. She calls out to them, straining forward to listen for a reply; the staff is a reminder of her blindness, and the fallen capital at her feet and wet, clinging drapery suggest the danger of her situation. The story must have struck a chord with the public, for the sculpture was in such demand that Rogers reportedly received nearly one hundred requests for replicas; he completed 11 full-sized versions and 46 reductions. Though Rogers was born in upstate New York and resided in Rome, he spent much of his childhood in Ann Arbor and considered it to be his hometown. Nydia was commissioned for the University in 1858 by a group formed for this purpose. The acquisition was so treasured that a special annex to University Hall was created to showcase the sculpture, one of the first in marble in the state.