Augustus Saint–Gaudens (American, 18481907)
Bronze, gilt; 103 1/4 x 50 in. (260.3 x 127 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1919 (19.124)
Amor Caritas held a special fascination for Saint-Gaudens since it represented the perfection of the ethereal female that appeared repeatedly in his oeuvre. His constant use of this motif reflects not a dearth of imagination on his part but rather his ability to refine an idea to its ultimate expression. The figure made its first appearance in 1880 in three elegantly robed angels for the tomb of Edwin D. Morgan in Hartford, Connecticut (destroyed by fire), recurred in the two marble caryatids for the Vanderbilt Mantelpiece (25.234), now installed in the East Gallery of the American Wing Courtyard, and was used again in the tomb of Ann Maria Smith in Island Cemetery, Newport, Rhode Island. Probably after Saint-Gaudens returned to Paris in 1897, the artist John Singer Sargent expressed an interest in painting the Smith tomb figure. This apparently was the impetus for Saint-Gaudens to rework that marble figure into a bronze sculpture. He made subtle changes in the wings and the drapery, reduced the size of the tablet, eliminated the cornice, and created a semicircular plinth on which the figure stands. Amor Caritas has upward-curving wings, a gently inclined head, and a belt and crown of passion flowers. Saint-Gaudens had difficulty deciding what to inscribe on the ornamental tablet the figure raises above her head. Initially he referred to the bronze as "Angel with the Tablet." He considered several titles with universal themes, including "To know is to forgive," "Peace on Earth," "God is Love," "Good will towards men," and finally, the present title.