In a photograph Bentley Historical Library archivists believe to be from the 1890s, a sculpture of Nydia, the blind flower girl of Pompeii, sits in the sculpture gallery of what used to be the University Library. (Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

In 1862, the University of Michigan received its first significant work of original art — the marble sculpture of Nydia, the blind flower girl of Pompeii. American sculptor Randolph Rogers, who grew up in Ann Arbor and later traveled to Florence, Italy, to study with sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, created the artwork. Rogers’ asking price for the marble replica totaled $1,700. To secure the sculpture, a group of local citizens formed an association in his namesake in 1859 and raised funds by holding concerts, lectures and festivals. To further cover costs, alumni and friends of the university provided gifts, and visitors were charged an admission fee to the room in which the marble sculpture resided at U-M. Based on a character from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 novel, “The Last Days of Pompeii,” Nydia remains on display today at the U-M Museum of Art.

— Compiled from the U-M bicentennial website,; “UMMA: A Beacon for Art” by Karen Chassin Goldbaum; “The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey”; and “History of the University of Michigan”