Plaster Figure, Polychromy
For a man without religious convictions, Frederick Allen made the most beautiful angels! Much like his depictions of children, the face on this little angel is sweet and blissful. It is a decorative piece as a candle holder, and as such is easy to look at day after day with her lovely expression and childlike charm. It also stands on its own artistically as a serious piece of sculpture.
Here he has turned to polychromy for the finish. Her skin, the bowl she holds on her knee and the base on which she rests are a pale peach-toned beige color, but her garment is tinted in shades of burnt sienna and her hair and wings in ochre. The coloration is subtle, muted and harmonious.
The angel’s figure is that of an adolescent; everything about it is soft and youthful. She turns her face upward behind which the hair sweeps away in waves to a soft roll exposing her shoulders. Her neckline becomes longer, extending from her lifted chin down over her sternum to the flat horizontal band of her squared bodice. From the forward curve of her neck, her spine curves back in a C shape to her seat. On her right side, that curve extends down through her thigh to her bent knee. The raised right arm follows a similar path. She sits on her right foot, which is bare as are the toes peeking out from her long dress on the left. The shape of the figure is visible under the gown.
Rhythm is created compositionally in patterns of three. The folds of her sleeveless gown across the right shoulder repeat the C curve three times. On the left side, her upper arm carries the same shape, from the chin down to the elbow then curves around and up to hold the bowl on a raised knee with her fingers. From there the vertical position of her lower leg offers a different line, repeating three times more in the line of the neck and upper arm, the folds of fabric across her shoulder and the parallel edge of the wing from where it touches her head to the level of the bent elbow. The stylized wings are scalloped in three rows at the upper angle from which fall three vertical feather shapes. Again, there is the rhythm in a pattern of threes.
A counterpoint is introduced with the crosswise folds of the fabric across her hips on the right and draped across her arm on the left. A long S-curve undulates on both sides from the head all the way to the feet. Viewed from the top, there is a spiral, like the whirling squares of the Fibonacci sequence or the unfolding of a fern. The small end starts at the head turned to the right, widens at the shoulders and chest which twist to the left, then down across the descending levels of the lap to the ground, a shaped rectangular seat at the base. The composition is interesting all the way around the figure, each angle presenting something pleasing and new to look at. The little angel is a captivating image, crafted by a master of composition.
A family story is related to the subject matter.*
“Mamsie was musing about Grandi’s work and she told me about how a church woman once told her, ‘Your husband must have a deep faith; the expressions on the figures he carves are so angelic.’ Mamsie laughed to herself but kept quiet about the fact that Grandi was an atheist.”
Later that month, when the author told this story to the Director of the Springville Museum in Utah, Verne Swanson, he joked that atheists are actually very spiritual, believing in no God as fervently as those believing in God.
*(see email from Elsie Hulsizer on 9/9/10)
Signed: On the underside of the base: F.W.A. Sc ’47
Copies: at least 8 by the sculptor plus more cast posthumously by Bob Shure of Skylight Studios for family members. An original owned by Phyllis Allen Kaercher was numbered VIII. Phyllis was the daughter of Allen’s youngest and favorite sister Millie.
Condition: Some flaking of the color, but in good condition.