COLLECTION: Decorative Sculpture

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Bust of a Woman, probably Emmeline Ames Dewey (Mrs. Abner Dewey)(1813-1883)

Possibly 1847
Origin: America, New York, Evans
Overall: 21 x 17 1/4 x 10in. (53.3 x 43.8 x 25.4cm)
Painted basswood
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1957.701.3
A freestanding painted woodcarving of a bust of a woman, the paint now mostly gone from her face. She wears a black dress with two rows of buttons down the front and back. Her short black hair is cut in an ear-length bob, the top pulled back and held with a clip.
Label:The loss of paint of this figure's face has radically changed its appearance, but the image remains a compelling one. Simplification of form and uncompromising frontality create a solidity and sense of monumentality that is disproportionate to the sculpture's life size. The stylized, linear treatment of the volumentric mass of the hair is typical of Ames's work, as is the attention to detail which, here, includes a clip in the top of the hair and the continuation of the rows of buttons down the back of the dress.
The portrait may well represent the artist's sister, Emmeline (1813-1883), who, in 1834, married Abner Dewey (1809-1893). In 1847, Ames carved bust portraits of Emmeline and Abner Dewey's three children, Adelaide (?-?), Maria (1843-1924), and Millard F. (1845-1916). If this bust of an adult woman represents Emmeline, most likely it was created then, too.
Provenance:Found in Pennsylvania and purchased from Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, N.Y.