Motion Drapes a Body at Rest

"There's a dichotomy going on: the calm facial features compared with the agitated drapery."—Thayer Tolles, curator

Frank Duveneck (American, 1848–1919). Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, 1891; this cast, 1927. Bronze and gold leaf. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1927 (27.64). Learn more about this object.

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique viewpoint on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.

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Jackie Terrassa: You may not have been prepared to find what you find as you get close, which is this beautiful woman lying in her bed. Except this is not the usual bed; this seems to be her deathbed.

Thayer Tolles: One of the interesting things about this piece in terms of its body language is that the figure is, indeed, dead. But at the same time, there is a radiation of peace or inner strength—less tangible qualities that are important to what this piece is all about.

Jackie Terrassa: The body of this woman kind of disappears under those fronds, under the fabric. And perhaps your attention then focuses on her face.

Thayer Tolles: Her face was remarked on even at the time as having a half smile, and I think that that's symbolic. It guides the viewer. It gives the viewer some measure of hope.

Jackie Terrassa: If you stand at the head of this bed looking down at her towards her feet, you may be struck by this incredible flow of lines and the braiding of her hair that continues a pattern then into the rest of her body.

Thayer Tolles: To my mind, there's a real dichotomy as to what's going on in the very calm, serene facial features, the folding of her arms across her chest, compared with the agitated drapery with all sorts of movement in the folds, rippling, shimmering, and then the long palm frond that covers the length of her body. This is really where the activity of the piece is: the physicality, compared with the serenity of her face.

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