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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Remarkable Enid Yandell: 19th Century Sculptress.

The Parthenon stands intact today... in Nashville, Tennessee... an impressive full-size replica of the Greek temple.  Therein you'll find a wealth of historical wisdom, an art gallery - and a 41-foot tall gilded goddess Athena... but not - perhaps disappointingly - the Athena of Enid Yandell... in 1897 deemed the largest statue ever created by a woman.

Enid Yandell - turn-of-the-century sculptress - created Nashville Parthenon's first Athena for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition.  Yandell's Pallas Athena (based upon the Pallas of Velletri - at the Louvre) stood sentry outside Nashville's Parthenon.  Strong hero-protector-goddess of all-things and endeavors wise, brave, just, skillful, shrewd, and artistic - Athena... at least Yandell's Athena... was not equipped to battle weather and time.  Nashville elected to replace Yandell's Pallas Athena.
Enid Yandell with Pallas Athena, circa 1897.  Photo from Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
After admiring the Parthenon exterior - its ornate mythologically-inspired pediments - its centaur-ific wrap-around frieze - its magnificent columns - its enormous and mysterious doors, I entered to find well-documented history of Nashville's Parthenon and of the Centennial Exposition.  And it was there, among the walls of historical information and beautiful artwork, I saw Enid with her Pallas Athena.
Nashville, Tennessee Parthenon pediment, frieze, and grand columns.  Photo Toile La La.
Magnificent doors of Nashville, Tennessee Parthenon.  Photo Toile La La.
While it is true Yandell's Athena was a smaller goddess than the one regally reigning and residing in present-day Nashville's Parthenon, the small but mighty 25-foot Pallas Athena has a look which is more fierce, serious and take-charge capable.  You may however choose to differ should you compare the 25-foot Pallas Athena to the 41-foot Athena Parthenos... both are awe-inspiring.

All in all, as awe-inspriring as any statue of any Athena statue - it's a remarkable fact and feat that Enid Yandell, a woman of the late nineteenth century should make her mark as a prolific artist/sculptor.  As proof of the magnitude of this triumph, one should perhaps consider Yandell's words describing another statue - Struggle of Life - portraying "the attempt of the mortal soul within us to free itself from the handicaps and entanglements of its earthly environments".

In addition to images of Yandell's Pallas Athena (sometimes referred to as Athene), it was a description of Yandell in her Paris studio - at the impasse du Maine in the Latin Quarter - which drew me to the artist.  Before Pallas Athena set sail for the U.S., Enid held a bon voyage party - "a candle-lit feast" inside the statue's torso... Tres Chic!
Wikipedia entry image, chromolithograph by The Henderson Litho Co., 1896/1897.  Library of Congress.
In the aerial view above, I believe you might envision Yandell's Pallas Athena smack-dab in the center.

Read more about the Nashville Parthenon at this Interesting America Richard Grigonis article.

See Enid Yandell's Pallas Athena in situ as it was in 1897 - here at Tennessee State Library and Archives.