“Undine Rising from the Waters” Chauncey Bradley Ives Smithsonian
National Portrait Gallery The Early Republic Gallery
One of my favorite pieces in the Portrait Gallery. The warmth of the stone. The weight of the wet cloth draping from her hands. The way the delicate adamantine fabric transparently clings to her flesh. Sitting at her feet, you watch the the light bath her, then melt into liquid. Walking around her, you hear the water twinkling as each drop lands in the pool of light at the floor from which she has sprung.
The curves of her hips dance. Her breasts sensuously rise as she inhales nonliquid air for the first time. The soft strength of her thighs are an invitation for an imaginative gaze.
What it must feel like to touch her. To hold her. To be enveloped by her. Surely it is worth the danger of her love.
Object Label Chauncey Bradley Ives American (1810-1894) Undine Rising from the Waters, modeled ca. 1880-1882 Marble Gift of James H. Ricau and Museum Purchase 86.481 An undine is a legendary figure, a mortal sea sprite that lacks a soul. She must assume human form and trick a man into marriage in order to gain a soul, and with it, immortality. Once wed, she can leave the sea, but only as long as her husband remains true. If her deception is discovered and her mate deserts her, the undine must destroy him. Ives chose the moment that this undine rises out of the water, and reaching sensuously heavenward to receive her soul.