Frederick Warren Allen

AMERICAN SCULPTOR, BOSTON SCHOOL

Pan Birdbath, date unknown, c. 1960?

The ancient god of wild nature, Pan playing his reed pipe, sits by the water of a birdbath. Frederick W. Allen, Sculptor

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.

An ancient Roman white marble statue of Pan from the 1st or 2nd century A.D. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Note beard style used on Pan by F.W. Allen.

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.

Excerpt from Pan Birdbath by Frederick Warren Allen, Sculptor, to show details of the central figure.

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.

Clay imaginative study

Leave a Comment

Previous post: