Built in the early 1830s as a carriage house and stable at nearby 809 East Leigh Street, this building was purchased by sculptor Edward Valentine in 1871. To bring in the indirect natural lighting favored by artists, he installed a skylight and large window in the north wall, creating the studio in which he would work for nearly forty years.
By 1889, Valentine's success had rendered the space inadequate for his many commissions and assistants, and he built a larger annex for casting and marble carving. The original structure continued to serve as a modeling studio and space where the sculptor received guests, taught students and managed his business affairs.
Threatened with demolition after Valentine's death in 1930, this former carriage house was rescued, dismantled and rebuilt here in 1936. Today it is one of only four nineteenth century sculptors' studios in the US open to the public, offering a rare opportunity to view a large collection of original artwork within the setting in which it was created, along with the sculptor's tools and other personal effects. Though the skylight did not survive the studio's reconstruction, the large window continues to illuminate the extraordinary sculpture of Edward Valentine.
Edward Virginius Valentine, 1838-1930
In a celebrated fifty year career, Edward V. Valentine produced portrait busts, ideal figures and monumental public sculptures in clay, plaster, marble and bronze. Beginning in 1859, he lived and studied in Germany, France and Italy, working under revered European artists including August Kiss. But it was in Richmond that the sculptor achieved renown, completing numerous private and public commissions between 1865 and 1910.
His prolific studio became a popular tourist destination, visited by such luminaries as writer Oscar Wilde and actors Joseph Jefferson and Edwin Booth. Genial and informative, Valentine spoke knowledgeably of his art and of the history of Richmond.
In accordance with the final wishes of his older brother, Mann S. Valentine Jr., Edward and his nephews established the Valentine Museum in 1892. From its opening in 1898 until his death in 1930, Edward served as its president. He bequeathed his own sculpture, papers, furniture and memorabilia to the museum, where they may be viewed by visitors and scholars today