Today the Dallas Museum of Art announced the acquisition of the first life-sized marble figure executed by Anne Whitney, one of America’s premiere women sculptors working during the second half of the 19th century. This is the first work by Whitney to enter the DMA’s collection, and it is currently on view in the DMA’s fourth level Arts of the Americas gallery.
In addition to her critical success as a woman sculptor, Whitney is notable for expressing her abolitionist and feminist views through her sculpture. She sculpted bust length and full figure portraits of leading protesters and suffragist leaders, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison, and Lucy Stone. She also created allegorical figures that addressed slavery and other prevalent social issues, with the most notable being Ethiopia Shall Soon Stretch out Her Hands to God. Whitney was also interested in social justice, which is reflected in the DMA’s sculpture Lady Godiva.
“Lady Godiva greatly enhances the DMA’s collection of mid-19th-century American sculpture,” said Olivier Meslay, the DMA’s Interim Director as well as its Senior Curator of European and American Art and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art. “With its narrative subject, neoclassical style, and socially conscious allusions, the piece typifies the formal and contextual qualities that characterize 19th-century American sculpture. This work is a wonderful addition to our collection as it is rare to have such an important work from this time period and from a female sculptor.”
Lady Godiva was an 11th-century noblewoman of Coventry who protested her husband’s excessive taxation of his subjects. In order to alleviate the taxation policy, Godiva agreed to ride through the streets of Coventry naked, provocatively demonstrating the poverty and vulnerability of her subjects. Whereas most visual representations depict Godiva’s nude ride, Whitney has chosen to represent the moment when she accepts her husband’s challenge. Still fully clothed, she has only just started to remove her girdle, alluding to the narrative’s dramatic climax. The sculpture is significant for anticipating the interest in social justice that would be more overtly expressed in Whitney’s later work.
The sculpture was a part of the collection of Alessandra Comini and the late Eleanor Tufts. As both art historians and art collectors, Comini and Tufts focused on women artists, and Dr. Comini’s interests in the area have remained strong since Dr. Tufts’ death nearly twenty years ago. In 2001 Dr. Comini gave a drawing by Egon Schiele to the DMA collection.
Image: Anne Whitney, Lady Godiva, c. 1861–64, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in memory of Dr. Eleanor Tufts, who discovered the Massachusetts-backyard whereabouts of this long-forgotten statue and brought it to Dallas.
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 24,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum welcomes approximately 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, and dramatic and dance presentations.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
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