The present work was one of two maquettes for Moore's Hornton stone Memorial figure (LH 262: fig. 1) which stands on the top terrace at Dartington Hall, Devon, as a memorial to Christopher Martin, the Dartington Hall Trust's first Arts Administrator, who died in 1944. First shown at the Leicester Galleries, London, Memorial figure was then delivered to Dartington in 1947. Moore choose the site himself, writing, 'I wanted the figure to have a quiet stillness and a sense of permanence'.
Richard Cork writes that Moore, 'was able to invest the Hornton stone carving with a heartfelt elegiac strain. The recumbent woman, draped more heavily than any of his previous works, broods gravely in the grounds where [Christopher] Martin must have enjoyed walking and savouring the seductive prospect of the countryside beyond. But there is nothing unduly melancholy about this ample figure. Stoical as well as sad, she seems reconciled to the inevitability of death ... Intact, harmonious and entirely unruffled, she presides over her surroundings with a mellowness which honours the softly rolling Devonshire landscape. Her upturned leg complementing the gentle swell of the terrain behind, the figure seems ideally attuned to the setting she occupies. Comforting in its permanence, the memorial implies an almost pantheistic belief in the unshakeable accord between humanity and the earth. Only a year before he started work on the Dartington figure, his much-loved mother had died at the age of eighty-six. He never forgot the sight of her lifeless body, explaining long afterwards that 'she had such dignity, such an eternity feeling about her, that to me it was beautiful but terribly, terribly moving ... there's something about a dead body which is statuesque'. Far from regarding his mother's corpse as a reminder of the inescapable dissolution, he found that it had an obstinate durability which permeates the memorial carved while the memory of her death was still vivid in his mind' (Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, London, Royal Academy, 1988, p. 19).
Moore's fascination with the reclining female form is demonstrated through its constant reappearance in his work, and was influenced by his knowledge of pre-Columbian carving (see A. Wilkinson, 'Moore: A Modernist's "Primitivism"', Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century, exhibition catalogue, Dallas Musuem of Art, 2001, pp. 35-6). The present maquette differs from the other preparatory maquette that Moore made (LH 243) for this memorial, for example in the way that the classical attire is draped over the figure and also the position of the feet which in LH 243 are closer to the Hornton stone Memorial figure. The two maquettes have more naturalistic heads while the final carving has a more primitve look (see Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore, London, Royal Academy, 1988, p. 223).
Moore had been the obvious choice to approach for this commission. Christopher Martin had been responsible during the war for the initiating and running a major study of how the arts were organised in England and Wales, under the title of the Arts Enquiry and Moore was an active member of the Enquiry's Visual Arts Group, chaired by Dr. Julian Huxley. Its membership had been chosen by Sir Kenneth (later Lord) Clark, then Director of the National Gallery, who became a leading member of the Group and was friends with Martin, whom he had been up at Oxford University with. As a result of these regular meetings Martin and Moore got to know each other and became personal friends. It is not surprising that Moore was pleased to commemorate the life and work of someone for whom he had gained personal affection and great respect.
The owner of the present sculpture was a close friend of Christopher Martin and, as a drafter of the Visual Arts Group's report, was also in regular communication with Moore. The maquette has been a treasured part of his family home for nearly 60 years.