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Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, 1848–1907)


Medium gilded bronze Measurements H: 41 7/8 x W: 23 x D: 35 in. (106.36 x 58.42 x 88.9 cm) Credit Purchase Accession Number 19.5.2 Location Not on View


The ancient Greeks and Romans personified victory as a winged female figure, a kind of angel who was sent by the gods to crown the victor in contests of arms, athletics, or poetry. Saint-Gaudens designed this figure of Victory for his Sherman Monument, which was begun in 1892, completed in 1902, and installed the next year in Grand Army Plaza at the East Fifty-ninth Street entrance to Central Park in New York City. Victory, wearing a laurel wreath and a Greek chiton emblazoned with an American eagle, strides in front of the equestrian figure of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, leading him forward with her right hand raised and holding a palm branch in her left. It was an innovative combination of a symbolic, imaginary figure and a traditional, naturalistic equestrian portrait. Victory and the rest of the Sherman group were begun in New York and re-modeled in Saint-Gaudens's Paris studio from 1898 to 1900 and in Cornish, New Hampshire, from 1900 to 1901. Saint-Gaudens first prepared a nude figure for Victory but changed his design after he saw a young girl, dressed as a winged angel in gold, walking in a religious procession in Boulogne, France. The sight inspired him, and he worked intensely in his Paris studio to create a similar figure. He especially wanted to arrange the draperies expressively and to show the figure striding forward with purpose and energy. This Victory is one of eight known reductions of the Saint-Gaudens figure, which were authorized by the artist's widow and probably cast after 1912. The condition of this particular cast is unusually fine; it retains its gold leaf, which also covers the now-restored full-scale Sherman Monument as well.