Diana, goddess of the moon and the hunt, can be identified here by the crescent moon in her hair and by the bow she holds. The sculptor clear chose the pose to display the figure’s sensuous curves to full effect. Contemporary critics felt that the sculpture’s features and physique were too naturalistic and individualized, noting that the figure looked more like a studio model than a classical goddess.

Diana is the most famous example of French sculptor Jean Joseph Alexandre Falguière’s voluptuous female figures. . . . [She] looks like a dancer, or a painter’s model, with individualized features of face and figure that, rather than reflecting a classical ideal, aim to show off the feminine physique. The crescent moon Diana wears in her hair and the hunting bow she holds in her left hand are the only references to the classical goddess she is meant to represent.

Falguière was well-known for such sensuous figures of nymphs and goddesses. In 1900, a critic writing for the Magazine of Art, called his figures the “ideal perfection of modern womanhood.” Yet these non-idealized figures were also controversial at the time for their provocative naturalism, revolutionary poses, lively surface modeling, and lack of allegorical content. They received mixed reviews from the critics, who generally felt the figures were too contemporary, too realistic—titillating portraits of studio models, not classical goddesses. But the many Eves, Dianas, nymphs and dancers were extremely popular with the public and were produced in a variety of media throughout the 1880s and 1890s.

Although relatively unknown today, Falguière was one of the most celebrated and honored sculptors of the late nineteenth century and exhibited annually at the Paris Salons from 1863 until 1900, frequently submitting several works in the same year. He was one of the most prolific monument-makers of his day—executing over 30 public monuments. In 1889, his monument to Balzac replaced the controversial portrait done by Rodin. Among his most successful students was the American, Frederick MacMonnies [whose work is also represented in the Clark’s collection].

—Jennifer Gordon Lovett, excerpted from The Art and Craft of Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, Jennifer Gordon Lovett et al. (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1994).

Jean Alexandre Joseph Falguière

French, 1831–1900


modelled 1882


18 1/2 x 8 x 8 in. (47 x 20.3 x 20.3 cm)

Acquired by the Clark, 1993