Malvina Cornell Hoffman (American, 1885–1966)
16 x 9 x 7 in. (40.6 x 22.9 x 17.8 cm)
Gift of Mrs. L. Dean Holden, 1935 (35.107)
This portrait of the Russian-born ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881–1931), made from a life mask, creates the sense of a living, breathing woman, an impression intensified by the colored features. The lowered eyes and closed mouth, however, hint at death—of the transcendence of this mortal life. One writer on Hoffman's work suggested that this image portrays Pavlova as a saint. The idea is supported by Pavlova's appearance as a living icon at a lavish birthday party given for her by Hoffman, where the dancer was photographed under a gilded icon frame, wearing a decorative headdress similar to the one seen in the Museum's mask. Hoffman tinted the wax to give to the face a lifelike skin tone and colored the headdress and necklace the red, blue, and gold-green hues of a gold crown and gemlike stones. These were probably once bright but are now faded.