The Bird Girl
The sculpture known as the Bird Girl was created in 1936 by sculptor
Sylvia Shaw Judson in Lake Forest, Illinois. It achieved fame when
it was featured on the cover of the 1994 novel Midnight in the
Garden of Good and Evil.
Bird Girl is cast in bronze and stands 50 inches tall. She is the
image of a young girl wearing a simple dress and a sad or
contemplative expression, with her head tilted to the left. She
stands straight, her elbows propped against her waist as she holds
up two bowls out from her sides. The bowls are often described by
viewers as "bird feeders".
The sculpture was commissioned as a garden sculpture for a family in
Massachusetts. A thin, 8 year old model named Lorraine Greenman (now
Lorraine Ganz) posed for the piece.
Only four statues were made from the original plaster cast. The
first went to the Massachusetts garden, and now resides in the
Ryerson Conservation Area in Deerfield, Illinois. The second was
sent to Washington, D.C., and is now located in Reading,
Pennsylvania. The third was purchased by a family in Lake Forest and
has never relocated. The fourth and most famous statue was bought by
Lucy Boyd Trosdal of Savannah, Georgia, who named it Little Wendy
and set it up at her family's plot in Bonaventure Cemetery. Judson
donated the original plaster model to the Crow Island School in
The Bonaventure Cemetery statue sat virtually unnoticed until 1993,
when Random House hired Savannah photographer Jack Leigh to shoot an
image for the cover of John Berendt's new book, Midnight in the
Garden of Good and Evil. At the suggestion of Berendt, Leigh
searched the Bonaventure Cemetery for a suitable subject. He found
the sculpture next to a grave site at the end of his second day of
searching, and had to make the shot quickly as dusk approached. He
reportedly spent ten hours in the darkroom adjusting the lighting,
giving the photo a moonlit feel and accentuating the halo around the
The cover image was an immediate hit, and Berendt called it "one of
the strongest book covers I've ever seen." Published in 1994, the
book became a bestseller, and soon people began flocking to
Bonaventure Cemetery to see the sculpture. Due to concern about the
amount of traffic at the grave site, it was removed from the
cemetery and later loaned to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah
for public display.
In 1995, Judson's daughter Alice Judson Hayes (aka Alice Ryerson
Hayes) had a fifth bronze statue created from a mold. That statue
was given to The Ragdale Foundation artists' retreat in Lake Forest.
Later, an authorized fiberglass replica was made from the original
plaster model for use by Macy's in their display windows; it was
later moved to a museum in Savannah. Hayes holds the copyright for
the Bird Girl, and has actively defended it by filing lawsuits
against unauthorized reproductions, especially full sized replicas.
She destroyed the mold that was used to cast the 1995 replica,
although the original plaster model still exists. Hayes has licensed
smaller scale replicas of the sculpture, which have sold well. She
died on Oct 13, 2006, passing on the copyrights to her daughter,
author Francie Shaw.
Warner Bros produced a film adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of
Good and Evil in 1997, directed by Clint Eastwood. After purchasing
the rights to use the sculpture's likeness from Hayes, the studio
created a fiberglass replica. The movie incorporated shots of the
Bird Girl sculpture on its posters and in the film itself. After the
film was completed the replica was sent to the Cliff Dwellers Club
in Chicago, Illinois.
Leigh sued Warner Bros in November of 1997 for copyright
infringement over their shots of the Bird Girl replica in the
cemetery, which were similar to Leigh's original cover photograph.
The lower court ruled that the movie's sequences with the statue
were not infringement, but an appeals court found that the
photographs used for promotional purposes, such as posters, bore
significant similarities and remanded the matter back to the lower
court. Warner Bros and Leigh then settled out of court for an
Sylvia Shaw Judson died in 1978. Although she did not see her Bird
Girl sculpture achieve fame, she was already a renowned sculptor
whose pieces have been on display in such locations as the
Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in
New York, the White House, and the Massachusetts State House. Jack
Leigh died of colon cancer on May 19, 2004, and is buried in
Bonaventure Cemetery, where he took his most famous photograph.
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