In 1891 Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by his friend Stanford White to sculpt his first female nude: a monumental allegorical figure which would serve as the weathervane for the tower of the newly erected Madison Square Garden. The first iteration of Diana of the Tower, measuring over 18 feet high and weighing over 1,800 pounds, was an immediate success - but it quickly proved too heavy to serve its intended function and was removed.
Saint-Gaudens streamlined the figure and removed the diaphanous drapery so that it would be in proportion with the architecture. The resulting 13-foot high figure was installed in 1893 and quickly became one of the most beloved public sculptures in New York City. Alighting atop one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan at the turn of the twentieth century, the gleaming Diana could be seen from across city and was one of the first sculptures to be illuminated at night by electric light. When White’s tower was demolished in 1925 the sculpture was placed in storage for several years before it was eventually acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
This second version of Diana was so popular that Saint-Gaudens issued a series of reductions of the model during his lifetime, of which this example is one of the finest. While the original large scale sculptures were intended to be seen from 347 below, this goddess inhabits the space of the viewer. This model reveals the hand of the artist in the particularly fine modeling of the figure’s facial features, believed to be modeled after Davida Johnson Clark, while the scale of her bow and arrow and pose have been slightly reconfigured.
Executed at the “E. Great” Foundry, Paris
Bronze with marble base
Overall height including base: 31 ¾ inches
Similar examples exhibited at:
World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893
Art Institute of Chicago, 1907
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Memorial Exhibition, 1908
John Herron Institute, Indianapolis, 1910
Detroit Institute of Arts, 1915
Catalogue of the Twentieth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by American Artists, October 22- December 1, 1907, Page 42, catalogue number 312.
Gardner, Albert TenEyck, American Sculpture, A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1965, page 52.
Dryfhout, John H., The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1982, pages 34, 206 and 210.
Tolles, Thayer, American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 1, A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born before 1865, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, catalogue number 131, page 308-309.