Any one that goes down to the Dallas Arboretum this summer will, understandably be wowed by the glass sculptures that Dale Chihuly has placed among the gardens. However, there are some other sculptures down there that are also worthy of looking at and blogging about.

One of my favorite little hidden spots is the Sunset Garden – with its particularly uncomfortable bench which looks down into the Pecan Parterre Garden and its century old pecan tree.


The view from the bench in the Sunset Garden, down past the fountain into the Pecan Parterre Garden, its Pecan Tree and the bronze Playdays.

Next to the tree is a wonderful bronze statue of a girl delighted to be stepping among a bunch of frogs. The sculpture is Playdays, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.

Playdays, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth

The sculpture must be intended as a fountain… although it is dry now.

I really like this sculpture, for its grace and for its joy.

I did a little online research and found that the sculpture is modeled after the dancer Desha Delteil. The sculptor used Delteil for a number of her works – her favorite model.

There is a series of photographs of Desha Delteil as a model in the George Eastman collection of photographs – you can see why she would be popular for a sculptural model.

Desha Delteil, from the George Eastman Collection

Information from

In 1916, Desha was hired to pose for sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth and modeled for several of Frishmth’s female bronzes, which Frishmuth entitled Desha. She became Frishmuth’s favorite model, posing not only for a number of her best pieces but also for her studio art classes. She is known to have posed for The Vine and Roses of Yesterday, and is presumed to have posed for The Hunt based on similarities of form and figure. [1] Delteil modeled for other artists as well, being highly valued for her ability to hold difficult poses for extended periods.

The dancer seems to be best known for doing the “Bubble Dance” in a 1929 musical comedy/revue, “Glorifying the American Girl” featuring the Ziegfeld Follies. I was able to find a copy of the film online – here.

However, Desha Delteil’s “Bubble Dance” is nowhere to be found. There are little bits of a very graceful dancer carrying a large transparent sphere moving in and out of scene, but no extended “dance.” And yes, if you were wondering, I did sit down and watch the whole thing. I like old movies.

The thing is, “Glorifying the American Girl” is a pre-code production from 1929 and in the decades since it has been cut down to remove any nudity or other morally unacceptable scenes. It could be that the Bubble Dance was simply too racy for the future.

This appears to be a theatre advertisement for Desha Delteil doing her famous bubble dance

Again, research online seems to indicate that UCLA has restored a complete, uncensored version of the film but hasn’t released it to the public. Maybe the famous “Bubble Dance” is in there somewhere.

I know this is way too much information about a simple little bronze sculpture in an obscure corner of the Dallas Arboretum – but you know how easy it is to fall down that rabbit hole once you start clicking away on the Google Searches.

6 responses to “Playdays

  1. Excellent post, Bill and you’re right, what a fabulous sculpture – so delicate but you can see that’s a direct translation of the model’s own poise and grace. 🙂

  2. I love all the photos and background info on them.  Hope some day to get to Dallas and visit some of the place’s you mention and see them for myself.

  3. Pingback: Young Faun | Bill Chance

  4. Pingback: Playdays in the Winter | Bill Chance

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