Augustus Saint–Gaudens (American, 18481907)
Bronze; Diam. 35 1/4 in. (89.5 cm)
Gift by subscription through the Saint–Gaudens Memorial Committee, 1912 (12.76.1)
In 188788, Saint-Gaudens modeled, for pleasure, a portrait of the Scottish-born author Robert Louis Stevenson (18501894). The sculptor met Stevenson after enthusiastically reading his New Arabian Nights, published in 1882. Saint-Gaudens recalled in his Reminiscences: "My introduction to these stories set me aflame as few things in literature. So when I subsequently found that my friend, Mr. [Will Hicok] Low knew Stevenson quite well, I told him that, if Stevenson ever crossed to this side of the water, I should consider it an honor if he would allow me to make his portrait." In the autumn of 1887, Stevenson arrived in New York and the modeling sessions took place in the author's rooms at the Hotel Albert on East 11th Street. After numerous sittings, Saint-Gaudens depicted Stevenson, ill with tuberculosis, reclining in bed, his back bolstered by pillows and his legs covered with a blanket. His head, with its delicate features and drooping hair and mustache, is held erect. His knees are drawn up to support a sheaf of paper, which he grasps with his left hand, while in his raised right hand he holds a cigarette. The author deemed the finished relief a "speaking likeness." He also thought the inscribed verses (a poem by Stevenson dedicated to Low) "look[ed] remarkably well." Saint-Gaudens initially modeled a horizontally rectangular composition but soon adapted it to a circular format he considered superior. The sculptor's most frequently produced relief, the circular Stevenson was cast in three sizeswith diameters of approximately 36, 18, and 12 inches.