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Hiawatha

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)

Date:
1871–72, carving 1874
Medium:
Marble
Dimensions:
Figure: 60 x 34 1/2 x 37 1/4 in. (152.4 x 87.6 x 94.6 cm) Base (Granite base): 23 in. Other (Plinth with inscription): 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Diane, Daniel, and Mathew Wolf, in memory of Catherine Hoover Voorsanger, 2001
Accession Number:
2001.641
  • Description

    After three years of academic training in Paris, Saint-Gaudens relocated to Rome in 1870 and soon began modeling Hiawatha in his studio at the Palazzo Barberini. The inspiration for his full-size seated nude was drawn from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha" (1855), a popular wellspring of themes for American artists during the late nineteenth century. Saint-Gaudens represented the central protagonist, a Chippewa chief, as a contemplative figure seated on a rock, leaning against a tree trunk with his quiver of arrows and bow nearby, and "Pondering, musing in the forest / On the welfare of his people," as the excerpt from Longfellow's poem inscribed on the marble base declares. Saint-Gaudens vowed he would "astonish the world" with his ambitious early piece, and, indeed, he sold the unique marble to Edwin D. Morgan, a former governor of New York.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: [on base]: AUG ST GAUDENS / ROMA FECIT 1872

    Inscription: [on front of pedestal base]: HIAWATHA / PONDERING MUSING IN THE FOREST / ON THE WELFARE OF HIS PEOPLE / ON THE SMOOTH BARK OF A BIRCH TREE / PAINTED MANY SHAPES AND FIGURES / LONGFELLOW

  • See also
12004

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