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A native of Maryland, the artist, with the financial help of William T. Walters, settled in Rome in 1858. There, he sculpted idealized figures as well as portraits of visiting Americans. He worked in a neoclassical style but was also influenced by the emerging naturalistic trends in sculpture. Two large marbles of this subject were cut (the original order for William T. Walters and one for Governor Edward D. Morgan of New York in 1874) as well as eight reductions, of which this is one.
There may have been two different models for the life-size versus the reductions of the Woman of Samaria. The features and body parts of the life-size versions have very masculine aspect to them with larger toes, heavier hands and a more squared off jaw. This has led to speculation that the model for the life-size versions may have been a male, while the model for the reductions (three quarter size) was most likely a woman.
In the Bible the Gospel of John relates the story of a Samaritan woman who is asked by a lone traveler for a drink of water. After talking with him, she realizes that he is the Messiah. In this sculpture Rinehart represents the Samarian woman, gracefully standing with her water vase resting on her hip.