Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)
Made in New York, New York, United States
16 1/4 × 22 3/4 in. (41.3 × 57.8 cm)
Purchase, Brooke Russell Astor Bequest and David Schwartz Foundation Inc. Gift, 2016
Not on view
Saint-Gaudens’s work for Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s grand residence on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Seventh Street included three low-relief portraits of family members. The posthumous likeness of patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt I, a steamship and railroad entrepreneur, presents the Commodore, as he was known, posed in profile against a dense background of oak leaves and acorns. This motif, symbolizing strength and regeneration, was adapted from the family coat of arms, visible at the lower right. Saint-Gaudens’s bas-relief style underwent a noticeable shift in the early 1880s to incorporate such aestheticizing elements, rendering this portrait in harmony with the sumptuous tapestries and embossed leathers that decorated the house’s interior.
Signature: Signed, top left: NEW-YORK·1873·ASGT [artist’s cipher] FECIT/ 1882
Inscription: Inscribed, top left and right: CORNELIVS·VAN// DERBILT·IN·HIS·L·X·X·I·X-TH·YEAR Inscribed, top left: NEW-YORK·1873·ASGT [artist’s cipher] FECIT/ 1882
Cornelius Vanderbilt II, 1882-d. 1899; his widow Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt, 1899-d. 1934; her daughter Countess László Széchenyi (Gladys Moore Vanderbilt), 1934-d. 1965; her daughter Countess Anthony Szapary (Sylvia Széchenyi), 1965-d. 1998; her children Paul László Szapary and Gladys Vanderbilt Szapary, 1998-2016.