1890 (cast 1894)
Gift of Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940; S.992.41
At the time Frederick MacMonnies modeled this work, one of his earliest, he had already apprenticed with Augustus Saint-Gaudens and was an assistant in the Paris studio of Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiere. Falguiere had a profound and lasting influence on the younger artist, and Falguiere’s Diana (1882) was an important prototype for this work. MacMonnies’s life-size plaster Diana won him an honorable mention at the 1889 Paris Salon, and its critical acclaim helped to launch his career. In it he captured the goddess’s fluid prance as she touches down on one foot and extends her lithe arms, having just released an arrow. The sculpture’s blend of decorative refinement and naturalism ensured its continued popularity through the production of this reduced bronze format and another version that was just over thirty inches tall. Long a favored artistic motif, the mythological huntress and goddess of the moon resurfaced as a popular subject among late nineteenth-century European and American sculptors. The theme provided an opportunity to sculpt an idealized female nude in motion—a nude further legitimized through her ties to classical mythology and revered Renaissance prototypes. Other Beaux-Arts artists who modeled her included Antonin Mercié, Paul-Jean-Baptiste Gasq, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The latter’s famous eighteenfoot Diana (1892-93) originally graced the top of Madison Square Garden in New York. MacMonnies went on to create a number of lighthearted life-size fountain figures for country residences, as well several bronze statuettes and large-scale sculptures and public monuments, including his enduring Bacchante and Infant Faun (1893, Metropolitan Museum of Art), which initially drew criticism for its indecorous nudity and perceived endorsement of drunkenness.
Last Updated: 5/13/09