Augustus Saint–Gaudens (American, 18481907)
Bronze; 8 x 7 1/8 x 6 1/2 in. (20.3 x 17.8 x 16.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.90)
The Head of Victory is excerpted from the winged female figure that leads Civil War hero William Tecumseh Sherman in Saint-Gaudens' Sherman Monument (18921903; Grand Army Plaza, New York). In the course of producing the monument, the sculptor modeled several versions. He based his first study on the features of Hettie Anderson, who posed for him in New York in 1897. According to his son Homer, the sculptor was dissatisfied with the result for "he felt that he had filled it with overmuch 'personality.' Then the second attempt although intrinsically of greater worth, appeared even more out of keeping with the monument. So finally he was forced to return to his earlier model." Even as the Sherman Monument was being cast in Paris, Saint-Gaudens continued to rework elements of Victory's head, requesting that the laurel leaves be more pointed and altering the treatment of the hair. For the Head of Victory, Saint-Gaudens went to the second, unused study, which he had preferred. The treatment of this version's facial features is rigidly classical, and purposefully lacks the passion conveyed by the Victory used in the monument, and also in its reduction (17.90.1). The head has a crown of laurel and hair secured in a Grecian knot. It is terminated at the neck and rests on a tablet inscribed "Nikh-Eiphnh" (Victory-Peace). The Museum was extremely fortunate to purchase this Head of Victory directly from Saint-Gaudens, who paid special attention to the finishing of this bronze, shortly before his death in 1907.