Paul Howard Manship was born into a large family in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Following in his older brother Luther’s footsteps, he turned to the arts at a young age. However, unlike his brother who studied painting, Paul chose to pursue sculpture. Since he was colorblind, he elected to work with monochromatic bronze. Manship studied in New York City, Philadelphia, and, most importantly, Rome, where he took an interest in Classical mythology. He was considered to be a practitioner of the Academic style due to his frequent use of allegorical and mythological subjects. Manship received a multitude of awards for his works as well as prestigious commissions, such as the Prometheus Fountain at the Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Flight of Night is characteristic of Manship’s bronze sculptures. It has a decisive frontal viewing angle and focuses on an allegorical figure derived from Classical mythology. This sculpture depicts the Roman moon goddess, Diana, flying over an orb. The elegance of the flowing drapery and the positioning of Diana’s arms create a crescent shape, mimicking her relationship with the moon, which is represented by the orb below her. The moon goddess, alternatively known as the goddess of the hunt, is also the subject of Manship’s Diana from 1925. This statue depicts Diana the moment after she fires an arrow at Actaeon for spying on her while she bathed. Part of a couple, the complementary piece shows Actaeon fleeing from both her arrow and the hounds she has set upon him.
Flight of Night shows Diana glancing backwards, most likely at the sun guided by her twin brother Apollo. Despite the disparate narratives, the goddess is positioned with her left knee raised, her right leg reaching back, and her head turned over her shoulder in both statues. This composition and the theme of levitation were elements that Manship used over and over again in many of his most famous works. In Flight of Night, he depicts Diana as a powerful goddess who is both beautiful and serene as she glides through the air and brings on nightfall.