Mask of Anna Pavlova

Artist: Malvina Cornell Hoffman (American, New York 1885–1966 New York)

Date: 1924

Medium: Wax, tinted

Dimensions: 16 in. × 9 in. × 6 1/2 in. (40.6 × 22.9 × 16.5 cm)
Weight: 15.4 lb. (7 kg)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. L. Dean Holden, 1935

Accession Number: 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.