Adolph Alexander Weinman (American, 18701952)
Bronze; 26 x 22 1/4 x 11 in. (66 x 56.5 x 27.9 cm)
Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1994 (1994.501)
As is often the case with small sculpture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Descending Night is a reduction after a full-size composition created for public purposes. Weinman initially modeled Descending Night and a male pendant, Rising Day, as commissions for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco. Descending Night is a quintessential example of American Beaux-Arts sculpture in which a lightly veiled allegorical program enhances a skilled rendering of an ideal female nude. The winged figure is a personification of the waning hours of daylight, as the low-relief crescent moon and stars on the integral base indicate. Her hands hold her hair away from her face, revealing her downcast, withdrawn countenance representing nature's mood. A guidebook to the Panama-Pacific Exposition elaborates: "The muscles are all laxthe head is drooping, the arms are closing in around the face, the wings are folding, the knees are bendingand she too will soon sink to slumber with the world in her arms." Weinman later described the 26-inch versions of Rising Day and Descending Night as his "best selling small bronzes." The patinas on casts of Descending Night vary from brown to rust red to the splendid green of the Museum's bronze, a reminder that color was a particularly effective means of expressing the artistic individuality of each cast.