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'Eve'

This three-minute audio clip describes the sculpture Eve by Edna Manley (1900–1987).

Eve

Eve

Museums Sheffield

Full audio description text

This life-like wooden sculpture of a nude female figure is slightly larger than life-size, at about two metres tall. It stands in the centre of the twentieth-century room at Graves Gallery in Sheffield. Both the figure and shallow 15 cm plinth have been carved from one piece of rich, dark brown, mahogany wood. The human form is smooth and highly polished while the plinth is roughly carved and covered in chisel marks. The sculpture is very heavy as it is a large piece of dense wood. It has a dominating presence in the space. 

The work is titled Eve, and was carved by Edna Manley in 1929. The figure is curvaceous, a fluid, rounded form with simplified features. Her skin is smooth and her muscle tone is evident. Eve's feet and legs face forwards, slightly parted, with a small bend at the knee. The top half of her body twists to the right as she looks back over her shoulder. This creates a subtle 'S' shape to the piece. Her right arm is bent straight up from the elbow, against her body, covering her right breast. The wrist is bent back, palm upwards and fingers clasped into a fist, resting against her collarbone. Her left arm hangs straight down, this hand also clenched, against the inner left thigh. Her visible left collarbone forms the only sharp line of the piece. The curvature of her body is echoed in the sweep of her smooth, thick, mid-length hair which hangs across her left shoulder, tapering across her chest. It frames her face almost like a headscarf. She has a prominent brow line and a long straight nose. Her lips are slightly parted and her eyes are wide open, however there is no discernible emotion in her face.

The title of the work comes from the story of the first woman in the Bible. It has been suggested that she is looking back over her shoulder following her expulsion from the Garden of Eden, her fists clenched attempting to protect her modesty.

Edna Manley was a British sculptor of mixed British and white Jamaican heritage. She married her Jamaican cousin and moved to Jamaica in 1921 following the birth of her two children. She was trained in the neoclassical tradition and experimented with modernism during the 1920s and 1930s whilst finding her own style. There are very few pieces of her work found in public collections in the UK.

Eve was presented to Graves Gallery by the Sheffield Society for the Encouragement of Art in 1937. It was initially displayed prominently on the staircase of the library and art gallery building – some people voiced objection to the nudity. The work now stands within a section of the gallery called 'Striking a Pose: People in 20th Century Art', surrounded by other sculpted and painted portraits.

Art UK and VocalEyes

This audio description was created by VocalEyes for Art UK Sculpture, a national project to document and increase access to the UK's publicly owned sculpture. This description is one of 25 representing sculpture collections across the UK.


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