Although she achieved fame for her formal public monuments, Evelyn Beatrice Longman was also a master of lively, small-scale portrait sculptures like this bust-length bronze work, displayed on its original marble-and-metal base. Because of the young woman’s ecstatic expression and the grapes entwined in her hair, the dramatic sculpture has sometimes been identified as “Head of a Bacchante,” referring to a female worshiper of the ancient Roman god of wine. However, it is actually a portrait of Margaret French, only child of famed sculptor Daniel Chester French, who later established her own career as a sculptor.
To make this portrait, Longman required 20 sittings between January and March 1912 in her New York studio. Yet it is obvious that, in addition to the likeness of the young woman, Longman was interested in evoking her subject’s personality, high energy, and infectious sense of fun. She does this by emphasizing the 23-year-old’s tousled curls, broad smile, and sparkling eyes. The vigorously worked surface of the bronze head is well matched with the variegated colors and swirling patterns in the rectangle of marble that supports it. “Peggy” was first exhibited at the National Academy of Design in the same year it was made. The following year it was illustrated on the cover of “The World Magazine.”