Dickinson artist unveils statue honoring Medora's namesake
Linda Little, of Dickinson, sculpted a statue of Medora de Vallombrosa, the woman the famed western tourist town is named after.
MEDORA, N.D. — A life-sized bronze statue sculpted in the likeness of Medora de Vallombrosa now permanently resides at the home where her parents once lived. The statue was installed on Oct. 19, in front of the Von Hoffman House in the little town named after Medora. A dedication and celebration is planned for the spring of 2023. Karen Putnam, president of the Medora Heritage Commission, explained the history behind the monument and the beautiful woman it represents.
“Marquis and Medora lived in the Chateau but they built the Von Hoffman House for Medora's parents, for them to come over from France and spend some time there,” Putnam said. “The Von Hoffman House and the Catholic Church - because Medora built the Catholic Church too - are the only two original buildings that are left in Medora that the Marquis and Medora built. So that's why we thought that was a good placement for the statue."
Medora, who lived from 1856-1921, was married to Antoine de Vallombrosa, better known in the area as the Marquis de Mores. He was a French-born nobleman who founded the city of Medora in 1883.
Linda Little is a Dickinson-based sculptor whose work is featured across the country, from the Veterans Memorial in Dickinson to the Pentagon in our nation's capital. She used the "lost wax method," which begins with a wire armature before being covered with clay and sculpted. The figure undergoes several processes before becoming the final bronze statue, Little explained.
“I'm really thankful that I was able to take on the project, and grateful to the community to let me do it,” Little said.
She used several pictures and paintings of Medora, who is often called "the Marquis," as visual references. Easton, Justin and Stephanie Hunter, who are Little’s grandson, son, and daughter-in-law, helped her sculpt the statue. Justin helped put together the armature, which is the framework of the sculpture, while 8-year-old Easton warmed the clay.
“My clay comes in what looks like a ream of paper and all that is cut in long strips about an eighth of an inch thick,” Little said. “Then my grandson takes that to the clay warmer, which resembles a microwave, and puts it on this certain paper and heats it up for me and brings it over so that I don't have to do so much heating up with my hands.”
Stephanie helped her with perspective, Little said.
“So she keeps me in check with making sure the proportions and everything are accurate,” Little said.
Before she took on making sculptures full time, Little had worked as a purchasing manager in Colorado. However, an automobile accident in 1996 resulted in head trauma, she said.
“We always said that God allowed the bump on my head so I'd become who he intended me to be,” Little said. “And I got great instruction from a master sculptor from Russia, and the rest is pretty much history.”
She said Putnam and the Medora Heritage Commission worked tirelessly to make the Medora statue a reality. The project was funded by donations, including one from the Medora Heritage Commission, Putnam said. The commission wanted a local artist, and Little was contacted because of the quality of her work, Putnam said. She added they are delighted at the final product.
“It met our expectations and then some,” Putnam said.
The Von Hoffman House is closed for the season but will reopen in May 2023, Kinley Slauter, director of theater and attractions for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, said. Admission to the house is free, but donations are accepted.
“Its permanent displays include some of the original furniture that was purchased and delivered to the house,” Slauter said.
He is excited to have the sculpture in front of the Von Hoffman House for visitors to appreciate year round.
“We're really appreciative of the effort that the Medora Heritage Commission, and Karen Putnam particularly, have done to make this happen,” Slauter said. “It really helps kind of tell that story and it's a great place for people to stop and appreciate Medora's part - Medora the person that is - in the history of Medora the place.”