Signed: Bessie Potter Vonnoh; inscribed: ROMAN BRONZE WORKS N-Y-No X
Holding a long scarf around her body from aloft, this gracefully leaning figure appears to be dancing. Her flowing, unstructured gown resembles an ancient Greek chiton (tunic), while the statuette’s refined features, slender physique, and modest downward gaze exemplify upper class ideals of feminine beauty and comportment in the artist’s own time. Bessie Potter Vonnoh almost certainly drew inspiration for this work from the graceful Hellenistic terracotta ceramic statuettes—known as Tanagra figurines—that had been illicitly unearthed in the 1870s and became popular among turn-of-the-century artists (see image below). As exemplified by The Scarf, depictions of women during Vonnoh’s era often bore titles that draw attention to clothing or fashion accessories. In the art-for-art’s-sake ethos of the period, such titles suggest that a work is a rarified expression of beauty rather than a portrait of a specific individual.
From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art
American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.
Aronson, J. Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872-1955) and Small Bronze Sculpture in America, Ph D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1995, pp. 265-273, 498.
Aronson, Julie. Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press and the Cincinnati Art Museum, 2008.
Department of Greek and Roman Art. "Tanagra Figurines". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2004. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tafg/hd_tafg.htm
Genocchio, Benjamin. "In Her Hands, Naturalism Won Out: A Largely Forgotten Sculptor's Works Herald Individualism." New York Times, Nov. 23, 2008, CT10.
Kim, Linda. "Separate Spheres: Potterines, Gender and Domestic Sculpture in Turn-of-the-Century America," American Art 28.2 (Summer 2014), 2-25.
Private collection, St. Louis, Missouri; Tracy A. and Laurel Pulvers, Burbank, California, 2007, given to present collection, 2014.
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