Augustus Saint–Gaudens (American, 18481907)
Plaster, shellac; 10 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (26.7 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm)
Purchase, Gift of Misses Alice and Evelyn Blight and Mrs. William Payne Thompson, by exchange, 2003 (2003.303)
Modeled in 1886 as a portrait of Saint-Gaudens' longtime model and mistress, this bust served as the preparatory inspiration for two major public pieces by the sculptor: Diana (28.101) and Amor Caritas (19.124), both on view in the Engelhard Court of the Metropolitan's American Wing. Aesthetically this under-lifesize bust is consistent with Saint-Gaudens' mature Beaux-Arts style. Completed at a high point in the artist's career, its modeling reflects a confident and spontaneous handling of material. It is typical of Saint-Gaudens' less finished works of the late 1870s and 1880s, and consistent with the modeling processes of other French-trained American sculptors of the period. This treatment is most noticeable in the rough surface modeling on the back side of the base, the sweeping incised lines delineating hair on the figure's head and at the nape, and casual building up of form in her bangs. This more preliminary effect suggests that the portrait was conceived first and foremost as a private token of affection for Davida Clark (1861–1910).