Primeval Prayer, an F.W.Allen Statuette “is attracting universal attention at the exhibit by the Guild of Boston Artists,” announces the Boston Journal, May 26, 1915. One of four bronzes by Allen shown in nine American cities, Prayer received words of praise from most reviewers, conflicted by the incoming Modern Art shown in the Armory Show the previous year in Boston and New York. “In keeping his idea big, the sculptor has, by the elimination of needless detail, shown in clay the elemental force that, coupled with man’s indomitable spirit, has made possible our civilization,” writes the critic. Verne Swanson, Director of the Springville Museum of Art in Utah and an authority on the sculpture of this period, commented when handling the bronze, that it would have been very comfortable in the Armory Show. He, too, noticed the power present in the form and the simplification of details that made it modern, while still rooted in the classical tradition of the Boston School.
A large crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony of a memorial erected to honor those Dedham soldiers who died in the service of their country in the World War. The crowd was “reminded the the monument was for the people of Dedham, for those who had passed on, and those who were to follow.” (Dedham Transcript May 22, 1931)
A committee had been named who gave the project two years of thought and discussion, finally choosing a design by Frederick Warren Allen. Working with architect C. Howard Walker on the final stone tower on which the memorial would be carved and the details of the figure, a final compromise was reached. The committee chairman concluded that “The monument is unique and individual in design, he said, and something that cannot be easily copied by other towns.”
Patriotism was strong and the American spirit craved expression of the ideals of courage, bravery, service and sacrifice for one’s country that memorials like this Dedham World War Memorial provided. “It is impressive and will serve to make us better Americans, better men, better women.” It will be a constant reminder that lives were lost “to the end that liberty may be enjoyed by all Americans.”
PAX reads the inscription, the idealistic goal of war. Victory and triumph are ours, indicates the raised arm and the palm branch. After the horrors of war, these hopeful symbols are uplifting. Allen believed that if a sculpture is perfect and beautiful in itself, it uplifts the viewer and gives a feeling of comfort. Just the composition itself can give a sensation of harmony and balance.
The original design was more ambitious. Budget constrictions required a smaller memorial. The stone tower drawn by Allen was larger and more complicated in its stepped panels. The figure was more detailed, more serious in demeanor and more complex in its draping. The details on the architectural elements were more complex. The inscription was changed from “Pax Victis” or “Peace Victorius” to simply Pax, Peace.
Consulting Architect, Charles Howard Walker
The great god Pan, god before the gods of Olympus, the god of shepherds and wild nature, part man and part goat with hooves and horns, a musical god who plays reed pipes, a god of “unpredictable, animalistic energy.” (Wally Gobetz, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The closest image from antiquity to Allen’s Pan is an ancient roman marble statue from the 1st or 2nd century A.D. in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Wally Gobitz No doubt he had seen it in his study of antique sculptures and is referencing it here. He may even have drawn it in class. The stylistic goatee and hair are similar and classical. However, he has taken liberties in his depiction of the cloven hooves, making them ridged and overly large.
Goats are natural climbers and here Allen has the goat god perched on a rocky outcropping above the shallow bathing area for the birds. His piping has attracted three frogs, which sit on either side of him and at his “feet” ready to jump into the water. All around him are branches and ferns, some of which look natural and alive judging by the vibration of the photo and the dried leaves on some of the branches. Other elements, such as the three or four tufts of wide-bladed reed grass and the one fern branch on the left of his seat appear to be sculpted of clay. The edges of the bath look as if they were roughed in with pinches and chunks of wet clay, cut with sculpting tools and spread with his thumbs to look like the rocky bank of a pond. He is, after all, a nature god and here he is in the midst of it.
There is money in the water, so this photo may have been taken in a public place, perhaps an art show. No notes have been found to provide any clues and the location of the sculpture is unknown.
Pan himself sits with his curly and somewhat matted furry thighs spread apart with the hooves on different height stones. The indentation formed by the tendon above his heel where it connects to the dewclaw is anatomically correct as is the rest of his figure. He appears to have fur on his arms as well, but none on his forehead as is sometimes seen. His hands are only suggested where they hold the banded flute made of three pipes of decreasing lengths. His bare torso is well muscled, leaning away from the vertical and to the side in an S-curve that extends from the top of his head, down along his upper back and shoulder and around again through the thigh and lower leg. The hair on his head, the pointed ears and horns all curl up and forward making a crescent with his long upward curving stylized goatee. He lifts the reed pipe before him with both hands and blows with his cheeks bellowing out to make his music. His eyes are large and slanted upward giving him a devilish look as images of him often symbolize. It’s a whimsical and magical place for a bird to perch and be entertained by the sweet pipes of pan.