Three Dancing Maidens

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The sculpture in the courtyard of the Burg Schlitz Hotel, Germany
Close-up of one of the maidens

Three Dancing Maidens (German: Drei tanzende Mädchen) is a nymph fountain (Nymphenbrunnen) sculpture by Walter Schott. There are several castings of the sculpture with perhaps the most famous being the one known as the Untermyer Fountain in Central Park, New York. Which, if any, of the full-size versions is the original has been disputed after looting by the Nazi Party. Three-quarters scale castings, likely to be the results of many attempts at perfection, can be found in Germany, Austria, and Northern California.


The sculpture features three life-size young women dancing in a circle, their dresses wet and clinging to their bodies.[1] The girls have their fingers intertwined and gleeful expressions on their faces.[2] Dianne Durante, author of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan, writes that "it radiates delight, in a way few sculptures match, and there isn’t any point of view that doesn’t reveal some new, graceful aspect".[3]



Schott began the creation of Three Dancing Maidens towards the end of the 19th century, using girls from the local Berlin area as models. After numerous sketches he made a model at three-quarters scale followed by 36 more attempts. Despite all the work he was unhappy with the project until he met Rudolf Mosse. Mosse, a wealthy and influential newspaper magnate in Berlin, spoke with Schott about his desire to have a fountain on the grounds of his residence on Leipziger Platz. The Mosse Palais [de] was already home to a large collection of art and Mosse hoped to have a decorative fountain placed in the courtyard. The conversation inspired Schott who, as a perfectionist, worked on the design for several more years. The piece was finally installed in the early 1900s.[2]

There are three known full size castings of the finished sculpture and several three-quarters scale castings have also been found.[2][4] Two additional full-size copies were cast in 2003.


When Rudolf Mosse died in 1920 his estate passed onto his daughter Felicia and her husband Hans Lachmann-Mosse, including the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt. The rise to power of the Nazi Party meant that a Jewish-run media empire was not viewed favourably. In 1933 Nazi Officer Wilhelm Ohst [de] arrived at the Mosse Palais and announced the imminent auction of all the artwork, including the fountain. The family fled and the building was turned into Hans Frank's Academy for German Law. A photograph taken in 1940 shows the courtyard with a stone lion replacing Schott's sculpture.[2]

Many pieces of art stolen by the Nazi Party have been returned to their original owners while others have been lost. Wally Mersereau, a wealthy investor from Northern California, enjoyed spending time as an amateur researcher. Around the early 2010s Mersereau visited New York and a walk in Conservatory Garden in Central Park drew his attention to the Untermyer Fountain. The plaque showed that the fountain was dedicated to Samuel Untermyer and his wife Minnie. With help from translated excerpts from Schott's memoirs Mersereau was able to track down six versions of Three Dancing Maidens including the original, two full-size casts, and three three-quarters scale versions, plus two more recent full-size reproductions.[2] The Untermyer Fountain is one of the full size casts which was donated to the park by the children of Samuel Untermyer in 1947, having originally stood at his Greystone estate in Yonkers, New York.[1] Mersereau made it his personal mission to find every copy of the sculpture that existed, travelling the globe to view each one. He found two other full-size versions: one in Den Brandt Park, Antwerp, and the other in the courtyard of the Burg Schlitz [de], a hotel in Mecklenburg, Germany. The one in Germany is believed to be the original but provenance is disputed. If investigations found which one was the original it may have to be returned to the Mosse family estate. The plinth on which the sculpture stands may be the original one but testing it requires permission of the owner, something he has not been keen to do.[2]

There are currently three of the three-quarters size versions known from the 37 originally cast. One is in the rear garden of the Stauss Villa in Berlin-Dahlem.[5] Another, known as the Wurlitzer Fountain, can be found in a park in Burlingame, California[6] and another in a private park in the Austrian Alps.[2]

In 2003 two additional full-size copies were cast from molds taken from the Burg Schlitz version. One is on the grounds of Gondelsheim Castle [de] in southwestern Germany and the other is outside the E.ON administration building in Potsdam.[4][7]


  1. ^ a b "Untermyer Fountain". Central Park Conservancy. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Shaer, Matthew (June 2018). "The Lost Maidens of Berlin". Smithsonian. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  3. ^ Durante, Dianne. "Untermeyer Fountain". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b Diehl, Heidi (4 August 2007). "Drei tanzende Mädchen mit Zahnbelag" (in German). Neues Deutschland. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Garten der Villa Stauss" (in German). Landesdenkmalamt Berlin. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Hidden Treasure in Burlingame". Burlingame On-Line. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  7. ^ Ney, Heinz (2 November 2008). "Nicht nur in Potsdam – der Schott'sche Nympfenbrunnen" (in German). Neues von Ney. Retrieved 7 June 2018.