Cristina Alvarez Davila

The Veiled Dancer, A Sculpture in Motion (excerpt)

Class of: 2022

Major: Photography BFA

Medium: Paper

Faculty: Margaret Samu

Prompt: This project was a formal analysis paper where we had to choose an object out of a list that was given to us. Then we had to go to the Metropolitan Museum and see the objects in person. We were also instructed to take a picture with the object in order to prove that we have seen it. Then we were instructed to male an analysis strictly from observation.

Upon looking at all the different objects we could choose from, I was immediately drawn to The Veiled and Masked Dancer. Once I arrived to the Met, I was devastated to see that Gallery 163, where this little statue resides, was closed. I think spoke to many people at many different desks until security agreed to escort me to the gallery where I got to see this tiny statue, which I expected to be much larger, all by myself. Having the whole gallery to myself, I was able to walk around her many times and contemplate her meaning in silence, without any distractions or noisy tourists. I jotted down notes restlessly trying to take in as much information as possible in the least amount of time possible trying not to take too much time from the security guard who was so kind as to not only take me to the gallery but also to wait for me to finish. I thanked the security guard and went home. I waited until the next day to write the paper so that I could give myself time to process the information I collected at the Met. Throughout this paper I was driven by passion, choosing the object that I was drawn to and sticking to it despite having a few obstacles. Then surpassing those obstacles made me all the more passionate about the little veiled dancer.

8 1/16 × 3 1/2 × 4 1/2 in., 65.6oz. (20.5 × 8.9 × 11.4 cm, 4.1 lb.) Bronze 3rd–2nd century B.C. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Open Access Policy

“The veiled and masked dancer is a free standing sculpture from the Hellenistic period from around the 3rd–2nd century B.C. that stands at 8 inches tall. She is made of Bronze and is so dark that she appears to be almost black in color aside from some rust and discoloration on some folds. The sculpture depicts a woman dancing beneath layers of drapery. She is covered from head to toe in long fabrics, even her face is covered by a thin veil that has an opening for her eyes. The only parts of her which are exposed are her left hand which is holding onto or tied to the fabric with a rope, a single dance shoe that floats above the ground, and a little bit of her hairline as well. It is evident that there are many different layers of clothing and textile. There is the top layer and then there is one directly beneath, but the folds and indentations in the fabric suggest that there is at least one more layer of clothing beneath that ends at her upper thigh, perhaps like a tutu of sorts. This sculpture’s proportions are perfect and very accurate anatomically. This sculpture has very fluid movement. There is no hierarchy in this statue, meaning that not one part commands the most attention. The artist employs use of vertical and horizontal lines, asymmetrical balance, lack of hierarchy, and emotion to create a veiled dancer frozen in time.

The artist uses the folds in the fabric to create the dancer’s body and movement. The use of diagonal lines in the fabric add to the sense of movement. Diagonal lines are unstable suggesting that the object is currently in motion. The curved lines in the fabric add a sense of energy and softness. These curved lines really bring out the organic shapes of her body. The use of diagonal and curved lines make a very solid and heavy material, such as Bronze, look soft and light. The metallic surface of the bronze make it optimal for capturing light. Every crease and fold in the fabric shimmers beautifully emanating a silk like texture. There is weight in the fabric and lightness in her movement. The lines on the surface reveal multiple layers of fabric which are not directly seen, but are suggested in the way the outer fabric sits, not on her body, but on more folds and small creases. The lines extending from her elbows and arms are tense and stretched. The tension and compression in the drapery reveal how she attempts to dance while trapped in textiles.”