Urgent Museum Notice

Test Plate for Virginia Woolf from The Dinner Party

Close up of Test Plate for Virginia Woolf from The Dinner Party

A glossy white porcelain sculpture rests on a flat white slab. The sculpture is shaped like a vulva with a core of seed-like shapes surrounded by three-dimensional petals that curl at the edges, mimicking pages of an open book.

Judy Chicago, Virginia Woolf (test plate for "The Dinner Party"), 1978; Glazed porcelain, 10 x 14 x 14 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Elizabeth A. Sackler in honor of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and the 20th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © 1978 Judy Chicago; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Test Plate for Virginia Woolf from The Dinner Party
Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago created the Test Plate for Virginia Woolf as part of her development of The Dinner Party. That large installation piece (permanently housed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum) is perhaps the best-known artwork to come out of the feminist movement of the 1970s.

The Dinner Party consists of three long tables, arranged to form a triangle. The tables support elaborate place settings for 39 women. Each table has a designated historical era: pre-history to classical Rome, Christianity to Reformation, and the American Revolution to the Women’s Revolution. Additionally, Chicago included the names of an additional 999 famous women on the Heritage Floor on which the tables sit.

The test plate for Virginia Woolf’s place setting, and others like it, is identical in size to the final version that sits on the table. Each plate is a unique work, yet they share similar imagery based on butterfly and vulvar forms. Woolf’s plate features a core of seed-like shapes surrounded by three-dimensional petals that curl at the edges.

This floral imagery is meant to symbolize the fruitfulness of Woolf’s talents as a writer. Hence, the curved petals may also be seen as pages of an open book. While the final plate for Virginia Woolf is delicately tinted with colored glazes that range from a deep pink in the center to a light celadon at the outer edges, the test plate is completely white, reinforcing the association with paper and writing.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Judy Chicago
  • Title

    Test Plate for Virginia Woolf from The Dinner Party
  • Date

    1978
  • Medium

    Glazed porcelain
  • Dimensions

    14 in. diameter
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Elizabeth A. Sackler in honor of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Photo Credit

    © 1978 Judy Chicago; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display

    No