AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS (1848–1907)
Amor Caritas, about 1904–06
Bronze high relief, with brown patina, 40 3/8 in. high x 17 3/8 in. wide x 3 1/4 in. deep
Signed, dated, and inscribed (on pilaster at lower left): AVGVSTVS / SAINTGAVDENS / MDCCCXCVIII ; (in frame reserve at top center): ∙ AMOR ∙ CARITAS ∙ [Love-Charity]
RECORDED: cf. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Homer Saint-Gaudens, ed., “Augustus Saint-Gaudens Established: The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens,” The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine 78 (1909), pp. 212, 222 // cf. Kenyon Cox, Artist and Public, and other Essays on Art Subjects (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914), pp. 190, 19 pl. 24 // cf. “Bronzes at the Detroit Museum of Art,” The International Studio 57 (December 1915), p. 26 // cf. Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture (New York: The Arno Press, 1924; reprint ed., 1969), p. 296, fig. 42 // cf. Louise Hall Tharp, Saint-Gaudens and the Gilded Era (Boston: Little Brown, 1969), p. 291 // cf. John H. Dryfhout, The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1982), pp. 234–35 no. 169 // cf. David C. Huntington, The Quest for American Unity: American Art Between World’s Fairs, 1876–1893 (Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1983), pp. 26, 163, 165 (version in marble) // cf. Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America (New York: Cornwall Books, 1984), p. 392 // cf. Kathryn Greenthal, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Master Sculptor (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985), pp. 29, pl. XIV, 107–09, fig. 99 // cf. Diane P. Fischer and Linda Jones Docherty, Paris 1900: The “American School” at the Universal Exposition (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999), pp. 14; 173 // cf. Thayer Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 313–15 // cf. David Finn and Susan Joy Slack, Sculpture at the Corcoran: Photographs by David Finn (New York: Ruder Finn Press, 2002), p. 86, illus. pp. 86–90 // cf. Henry J. Duffy and John H. Dryfhout, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age (Washington, D.C.: Trust for Museum Exhibitions, with the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire, 2003), pp. 76 and 84 // cf. Joyce K. Schiller, “Winged Victory, A Battle Lost: Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Intentions for the Sherman Monument Installation,” in Thayer Tolles, ed., Perspectives on American Sculpture before 1925 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 47 // cf. Thayer Tolles, Augustus Saint-Gaudens in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 35, 40, 42 fig. 50, 43 // cf. David G. McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), pp. 448–49 (version in marble) // cf. Cynthia J. Mills, Beyond Grief: Sculpture and Wonder in the Gilded Age Cemetery (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2014).
EX COLL.: private collection, Paris, France, until 2015
The angelic figure in Amor Caritas is Saint-Gaudens’ interpretation of a caryatid in Greek architecture. Draped female caryatids traditionally served as weight-bearing pillars, with entablatures atop their heads. Saint-Gaudens’ caryatid, realized in high relief rather than free-standing, is decorative and not structural. Her upraised arms support a tablet inscribed with inspirational words. The caryatid remained a constant theme in Saint-Gaudens’ oeuvre from 1879 until his death. He first took up the idea in 1879–80 with his commission for the tomb of Edwin D. Morgan, a former governor of New York, for Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut (destroyed by fire before its completion in marble). Saint-Gaudens revisited the caryatid theme, executed in red marble, for the mantelpiece in the entrance hall to Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s Manhattan mansion (1881–83; The Metropolitan Museum of Art), and, again, in two more marble cemetery memorial commissions, in 1887, and 1902. In 1897, at the urging of John La Farge, a fellow artist and friend, Saint-Gaudens decided to revise his caryatid design for casting in bronze. The bronze Amor Caritas of 1898 stands as the most beautifully realized and arresting of this series of female figures, the finest example of this form. The model for Amor Caritas as well as a number of other works, including Diana for the top of the tower at Madison Square Garden, New York (The Philadelphia Museum of Art), was Davida Johnson Clark, not only Saint-Gaudens’ favorite model, but also the artist’s mistress and the mother of his illegitimate son, Louis Clark.
Saint-Gaudens exhibited a large bronze of Amor Caritas (102 1/2 x 48 in.) in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, along with several other works. His contributions won him the Grand Prize. The French Government purchased Amor Caritas for the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, an extraordinary honor for an American at that time. It remains today in the French national collection and is currently the property of the Musée d’Orsay. In recognition of his talents and his stature in contemporary sculpture, Saint-Gaudens was made a corresponding member of the Société des Beaux-Arts, and named an officer of the Legion of Honor.
Following the success of the large Amor Caritas, Saint-Gaudens arranged for the casting of a 40-inch reduction. Of the 23 known versions of this cast, seventeen are in public collections.