Dorothy Jordan Dancing, 1912-13


Bronze statuette of a dancing Dorothy Jordan (1912-13) by sculptor Frederick Allen Warren (1888-1961).

The lovely lithe dancer bends sideward toward her left. She holds a long thin scarf which billows outward in an arc from her right hand, gracefully held overhead, and flows around to the left hand, connected low and behind to her left thigh. Part of an oval is formed, outlined by the scarf through which she fixes her gaze to the next step in her dance. The line of the oval continues along the curve of her body, back up to her raised arm and is completed in the hand holding the scarf. In a dance, controlled movements of the body create shapes like these with swirling scarves. The action of the body is therefore important in this statuette.

One line of movement begins in the foot of her left leg, stepping forward with a slightly pointed toe touching the ground. It travels up through the limb bending across the outward curve of her right hip and then again upward and outward to the left along her back and neck to the top of her head, which tilts to that side. Even the hair swinging outward carries the curve to her left in the direction of the billowing scarf. Another line of movement, adding interest and complexity, is the twist in her body starting at the forward foot through the same side hip. The hip turns back with the waist and the torso twists back with it, bringing the shoulder behind her. The different viewing angles created by the movement catch the viewers’ interest from all sides. If seen from above it would form a spiral. One can almost see the follow-through of the dancer’s turn, the right arm pulling the scarf upward and outward with an open chest and arched back carrying the movement around in that spiral.

With all this movement, balance is important to anchor it. Balance is created through the right foot, planted solidly on the ground on a straight leg and forming a triangular base with the toes of the forward left foot. The muscles are tightened in the knee and thigh to hold her steady. One end of the scarf flips up behind her to her right to balance the weight of the circle of the scarf to her left. The uplifted bent right arm and elbow balances the downward swing of the scarf.

Her face is pretty and her hairstyle youthful, but the details in the facial features, hands and feet are spare and simplified, becoming subordinate to the movement. The texture of the body is smooth and shiny contrasting with smaller details, “jingle” as he called it, of the textured scarf and darker hair. The base of the composition appears to be a simple octagon, like a flat stone tilted up at the back, above a more complex base that looks like roots in the ground. She appears like a woodland nymph dancing blissfully.

The size and medium used are uncertain, but the terms statuette and figurette would indicate that it was small. Glazed colored ceramic would have been a fitting medium for such a piece. He did have the piece cast at Torski’s first, which may have been plaster or ceramic. The photograph he took on February 24, 1913 shows darker hair and a shiny surface appearance supporting that thought. However, Allen’s diary indicates later that the figure was cast at Gorham, the silver manufacturer and bronze foundry, and that he chose a light green patina. More than one note in the family records indicates that a Dancing Girl was “destroyed.” The scarf Miss Jordan swirls around her is delicate, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the note points to the Jordan figurette. However, more research indicates that the broken statue may have been the Dancing Girl Fountain Figure.

Further research discovered a few additional pages written by Allen he in which wrote that he took a cast made at Torski’s to Miss Jordan’s home on Beacon Street for final approval before shipping it to Roman Bronze in New York City for bronze casting. He reported then that Roman called to say the figure had broken in transit. It was returned to him. He brought it to his studio, mended it and brought it personally to Gorham Foundry in Providence where it was cast in bronze with a light green patina. It was finally ready. He brought it back on Christmas Eve!

Dorothy Jordan, a dancer, was known among the circle of women which included Edith Deacon, Mrs. John Lawrence and Nora Iassigi, all of whom inhabited the socially elite world of Massachusetts. Allen writes in his diary that, “Miss Deacon told me of commission to do dancing figurette of Dorothy Jordan and gave me photos.” That was on May 10, 1912. He continued to work on it through May, recording 4 days of sculpting. His future wife, Agnes, was interested and watched the process of creating the sculpture from the photos he had been given. At the same time, he was working on the bust of Mrs. Lawrence, which went on exhibit with a Russian Dancing Girl at the St. Botolph Club a few years later in April, 1916. This figurette may be the same dancing girl although the description as “Russian” doesn’t seem to fit. His diary then doesn’t mention the Jordan figure again until the following November. Work had stopped in June because of Allen’s health issues. That month he had a surgery for a hernia and vericoceles and spent the summer recuperating. Work resumed and he sent the piece to Torsky for the first casting in December, then to Providence in October for the final casting.

Alternate Titles: Jordan Statuette; The Dancer; Dancing Figurette
Dimensions: Unknown; descriptions indicate that it was small
Medium or Technique: Cast in plaster or ceramic, then in bronze with a light green patina
Exhibitions: School of the Museum of Fine Arts faculty & student collection of summer work, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (7 February 1913)

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