Davida Johnson Clark

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

Date: 1886

Medium: Plaster, shellac

Dimensions: 10 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (26.7 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Alice and Evelyn Blight and Mrs. William Payne Thompson, by exchange, 2003

Accession Number: 2003.303


Modeled in 1886 as a portrait of Saint-Gaudens's 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-life-size bust is consistent with Saint-Gaudens's mature Beaux-Arts style. Completed at a highpoint in the artist's career, its modeling reflects a confident and spontaneous handling of material. It is typical of the Saint-Gaudens's 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 modeling of surface 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.