Lady Godiva


Anne Whitney ( American, 1821 - 1915 )

c. 1861–1864
more object details

General Description

Lady Godiva is the first life-sized marble figure executed by Anne Whitney, one of America’s premiere women sculptors working during the second half of the 19th century. For her own interpretation of the medieval heroine, Whitney most likely consulted Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Godiva (1842), one of the most popular and recent poems to treat the Godiva story. Whereas most visual representations depict Godiva’s nude ride, Whitney has chosen to represent the moment when she accepts her husband’s challenge. Still fully clothed, she has only just started to remove her girdle, alluding to the narrative’s dramatic climax. The belt itself, with its eagle-shaped clasps, is a direct reference to the Tennyson poem. Intriguingly, Godiva looks upward rather than toward the viewer, recalling the heavenward gaze of saints and other holy figures. Whitney most likely employed this gaze to underscore the morality of Godiva’s decision, since she undertook the ride for the sake of her subjects.

Adapted from

Olivier Meslay, Unpublished material, 2011.

Fun Facts

  • The full credit line for this sculpture is "Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in memory of Dr. Eleanor Tufts, who discovered the Massachusetts-backyard whereabouts of this long-forgotten statue and brought it to Dallas."

  • Anne Whitney was an impassioned advocate for women's rights and social equality, which is frequently seen in her choice of subjects, including abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe and suffragette Frances Willard.

Web Resources