Vanderbilt Mantelpiece

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

Date: ca. 1881–83

Geography: Made in New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Marble, mosaic, oak, and cast iron

Dimensions: 184 3/8 x 154 7/8 x 37 1/4 in. (468.3 x 393.4 x 94.6 cm)

Classification: Architecture

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II, 1925

Accession Number: 25.234

Description

This mantelpiece originally dominated the entrance hall of the residence of Cornelius Vanderbilt II on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street (demolished 1925-27). Working for the architect George B. Post, the artist John La Farge (1835-1910) created a lavish decorative program, to which Saint-Gaudens contributed many of the sculptural elements. Two classical caryatids, Amor (Love) and Pax (Peace), support the expansive entablature with bowed heads and upraised arms. The overmantel mosaic depicts a classically dressed woman holding a garland. The Latin phrase of hospitality flanking her head may be translated as “the house at its threshold gives evidence of the master’s good will. Welcome to the guest who arrives; farewell and helpfulness to him who departs.”

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