Nancy Richmond, relief, 1918

Nancy Sophilia Wilson Richmond, modeled in 1918 when she was ten years old. Daughter of architect and author Henry Parsons Richmond of the firm of Guy Lowell. Frederick W. Allen, Sculptor.

A sculptor studies the skull to start a portrait. There is always something distinctive. As a child grows, the top of the head and the forehead become smaller in relationship to the face. As the bones mature the features become elongated and more defined. The neck becomes longer and the fullness in the face is reduced. Once the sculptor understands the underlying skeletal form and has reproduced it accurately of a subject, the facial features can be added. At age ten, the beginning of puberty, the forehead size is more proportional to the frontal features than in a young child.

In this portrait, Nancy’s jaw is still not fully formed and the neck has not elongated to teenage proportions. Her forehead is high, but is now only about a third the size of her face instead of a full half. The jaw line is undefined still. The eyes are deep and the nose has a clear shape, so there is definition, but there is still plumpness in the flesh at the eye, cheek and jowl. Her mouth, turned down at the corners, gives her a very serious appearance.

The clear lines of her profile created by the deep shadows and high planes of the shallow relief are dramatic compared to the lack of contrast at the back and top of her head. The face is clearly featured and her expression shows her thoughtful personality. Color is suggested by the dark of her eyes, the smooth paleness of her skin and the “blond”ness of her hair.

In composition, the lines and forms of the head and shoulders form a solid and the graceful curve of the chin and neck create movement. Rhythm is felt in the repeated flowing forms of the hair as it falls on the shoulder away from the opposing curve of the chin and in the repeating curve at the neck. The sweep of hair from the front of the forehead to the nape of the neck forms an undulating line diagonally, a counterpoint to the vertical lines of the profile and the back of her head. The wash of hair upward from her back toward her neck is repeated in the loosely tooled drawing of the watery flow of fabric from her dress over her shoulder. The s-curve of her chin and throat is reflected in the curves of her hair at the neckline. There is clear contrast between the details of the face and the plain background, creating a point of emphasis. The rectangular whole is divided diagonally by the line of the hair, that triangle separating the detailed portion by the quiet half of the composition, establishing balance. The cohesive whole of the portrait is a centered rounded square within a simple rectangle, it’s curved top echoing the curve of her crown. To “ground” the portrait, a base for the “floating” head is formed by a widening at the lower edge both in width and depth.

Nancy Sophilia Wilson Richmond (1908-?)
Born 1908, married 1968 to Lawrence R. Lewis
At the time the portrait was modeled, she was age 10.

Inscription: Her name and birth year are in raised letters above the base of the border and a symbol is in relief in the upper right corner. It appears to be an S with a sword piercing through it topped with a fleur-de-lis shaped hilt. The photograph does not show some of the lighter details, so neither the sculptor’s signature and date nor the details of the crest or seal can be discerned.

The photograph is of a clay or plaster copy of the original. No information has been found about whether it was cast in bronze. The portrait is missing.

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