Stop 42. Bust of Belle Greene


Jo Davidson (American, 1883–1952)
Terra cotta
11 x 7 x 5 3/4 inches (27.9 x 17.8 x 14.6 cm)
Purchased on the Charles Ryskamp Fund, 2018


Rachel Federman, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings
A sculptor well known for his portraits, Jo Davidson made numerous busts of writers, artists, and political and military figures during the first half of the twentieth century. This terra-cotta bust of Belle da Costa Greene was recently rediscovered in Davidson’s estate and acquired by the Morgan in 2018. Like many of Davidson's portraits, it was probably not a commission but, rather, one of the busts he made when he encountered someone whose face he found interesting. Davidson may have met Belle Greene through publisher and bibliophile Mitchell Kennerley, who was a close friend of them both, especially in the mid-1920s, when this bust was made. This is the only known sculpted portrait of the first Director of the Morgan and one of the few surviving life portraits of her in any medium.