The present cast of The Young Diana, one of Janet Scudder’s most successful compositions, was recently rediscovered in an Italian private collection. The model toured international exhibitions in Europe and America in the 1910s, prompting some of America’s wealthiest collectors to commission different versions from the Terre Haute sculptor. This bronze is identical to the lost statue designed for the oil industrialist and philanthropist Harold Irving Pratt.
Scudder approached the world with a frivolity, determination and deference matched only by the playful sculptures that established her reputation among the North American elite. Her work is inhabited by children, animals and fairy-tale characters, invariably rendered with spirit and charm. Scudder lent force and movement to her subjects by precocious balancing and silhouettes. The Young Diana is probably the most successful example of this ethic: the elegance and lightness with which the girl is poised atop the orb attracted critical praise at the Rome International Exposition of 1910, an honourable mention at the Paris Salon of 1911, and a prize at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1913.
The Young Diana was conceived during one of Scudder's many stints in Europe and modelled in a borrowed studio in Paris in 1910. The figure is based on the likeness of Betty, the daughter of one of Scudder's travel companions, the American painter Bryson Burroughs. Scudder's studio assistant at the time describes how she had to "hypnotise" the young model during the tedious sittings in the Parisian studio (Conner and Rosenkranz, op.cit., pp. 156 and 160, n. 25).
A note written by Scudder to the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1926 mentions three extant casts of The Young Diana. Each cast was different: the pedestals and small details such as the crescent moon on the headpiece and the limbs of the bow vary. The primary version, possibly the present, was the one exhibited from 1910 to 1913 and sold afterwards to Harold I. Pratt for $800 for the gardens at Welwyn, his estate at Glen Cove, Long Island. The cast disappeared as sections of the estate were reappropriated after the death of his wife Harriet Barnes Pratt in 1969. Several images of this cast survive and show the bronze figure set on a marble pedestal decorated with four greyhounds and frogs. The limbs of the bow have a distinctive shaped nock with a groove to hold the string. Scudder sold the second cast to John Long Severance, a Cleveland businessman. This cast was bequeathed to the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. no. 1942.796) and is distinguished by a pedestal with marble greyhounds and bronze frogs and a more bent bow with a grooved nock on the underside and bulbous nock at the top. The third cast that Scudder recorded in her note in 1926 was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum from 1918 to 1926 as part of a changing contemporary art exhibition. This is possibly the cast with a bronze base with dolphins, without the hexagonal plinth and crescent moon headpiece illustrated by Conner and Rosenkranz (op.cit., pp. 158-159) and said to be in a private collection. Incidentally, it is identical to one photographed in New York and illustrated in Scudder’s autobiography Modeling my life (op.cit., p. 151). The differing bows of the three casts cast are probably the result of a misunderstanding at the foundry: the limbs were cast separately and even though Scudder may have intended the two nocks to differ, the foundry assembled the bows freely with the interchangeable limbs, creating the three variations.
Janet Scudder was born in Terre Haute, Indiana into an impoverished family plagued by misfortune. With help of friends and relatives she enrolled in local art classes and later the Cincinnati Academy of Art and moved through a succession of wood carving and studio assistant jobs in Cincinnati and later Chicago, encumbered by the fact that often female labourers were forbidden to work. Her career and style took shape due to stints in the studios of Loredo Taft and Frederick Macmonnies between 1893 and 1896 and a number of years spent travelling as an artistic companion to a succession of American heiresses. As much as this helped her, she felt suppressed by the solemn statuary produced by her male colleagues and the monotony of living a luxury lifestyle and soon decreed "never to do stupid self-rightious sculpture - even if I had to die in the poorhouse" (Scudder, op. cit., p. 165). From 1900 onwards she focused on frivolous representations of children and youthful literary characters, often in the form of fountains, and swiftly found recognition and a steady stream of commissions. Around 1908-1913 she produced her best work, such as The Tortoise Fountain, The Young Diana, and The Little Lady of the Sea, often during trips to Europe. Scudder equally sharpened her pen and tongue during this time, lashing out to dilettante woman artists, gender inequality, and dull art.
“The Renaissance villa of Italy developed into a complete residential type for use in America. The house of Harold McCormick, Esq. at Lake Forest, Ill. Charles A. Platt, Architect.", Architectural Record 31, March 1912, pp. 201-225; J. Scudder, Modeling my life, New York, 1925; Fauns and fountains. American garden statuary, 1890-1930, exh. cat. The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York, 1985, no. 27; K. Solender (ed.), The American way in sculpture 1890-1930, exh. cat. Cleveland Museum of Art, 1986, p. 24, no. 16; J. Conner and J. Rosenkranz, Rediscoveries in American sculpture. Studio works, 1893-1939, Austin, 1989, pp. 151-160
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