As we celebrate President’s Day Columbus Museum of Art is proud to announce the acquisition of a folk art carving called George Washington in Masonic Apron. The sculpture is carved walnut, 21 inches high, and dated about mid-twentieth century. It depicts President Washington clad in his Masonic apron, standing next to a short pedestal that is a Masonic symbol, holding a stonecutter’s hammer in one hand and partially un-rolled scroll in the other, which represent the US Constitution. The sculpture is signed by Sylvan Levy. Not much is known about Levy but because the work celebrates Washington, the Father of the United States and the Washington the Freemason, we assume that Levy was himself a Mason.
George Washington in Masonic Apron is a tremendous addition to the permanent collection of the Museum. It represents an iconic American figure easily recognizable to visitors with obvious patriotic and historical content. Moreover, the carving has considerable presence and demonstrates a level of craft that is unique in the folk art genre while the form and sophistication of the piece challenges traditional notions of what folk art is. Lastly, the iconographic reference to Freemasonry adds a level of intellectual and cultural history that makes the work of particular fascination now and for generations to come.