Daniel Chester French (American, 1850–1931)
18 x 10 3/8 x 11 3/4 in. (45.7 x 26.4 x 29.8 cm)
Purchase, Erving Wolf Foundation Gift, in memory of Diane R. Wolf, 1974 (1974.324)
French executed Study for the Head of the Melvin Memorial in October 1907, after he completed the final full-size model for the monument. Consequently, despite the work's title, the head, with its placid face and downcast eyes, is not a study per se. Extracting portions of large, usually public compositions had gained increasing favor with American sculptors attempting to create a market for small-scale domestic work. Here French extracted a part from a whole figure, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century practice that had gained popularity through the influence of Auguste Rodin's partial figures and fragmentary sculptures from antiquity. After French completed the plaster model, he did not smooth out the seams of the mold; the most obvious one in the bronze runs vertically through the profile, thereby deliberately giving the masklike study the appearance of being unfinished.