AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS (1848–1907)
William Evarts Beaman in His Fourth Year, 1885
Bronze, 18 1/2 in. diameter
Signed (at lower right on a raised escutcheon): FE / A ST G / CIT
RECORDED: cf. Augustus Saint-Gaudens: The Portrait Reliefs (Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1969), n.p. no. 33 illus. // cf. John H. Dryfhout, The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1982), p. 149, no. 116 illus. as William E. Beaman
EX COLL: private collection, New York, until the present
Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ tondo bronze relief of William Evarts Beaman (1881–1945) was the sculptor’s contribution to a barter arrangement: a portrait of four-year-old William in exchange for the use by the Saint-Gaudens family of the Beamans’ Cornish, New Hampshire, farmhouse for the summer of 1885. Saint-Gaudens’ arrival in Cornish, a country town in extreme western New Hampshire on the Connecticut River across from Windsor, Vermont, proved an epochal event both for the artist and for the small town that would become a noted art colony.
The bronze tondo of William Evarts Beaman was executed in the same year that Augustus Saint-Gaudens modeled his own son, Homer Schiff Saint-Gaudens (1880–1958). The sculptor portrayed both children with the long, flowing curls that were customary for boys at that time before their first haircut. The affection that Saint-Gaudens felt for this precious moment of childhood infuses the spirit of both works. The tondo of William Beaman bears two inscriptions, a lengthy one at top and a second single line along the bottom. Above the portrait is a quotation rendered in Latin from Book 9 of the Dialogues of Seneca, which translates to: “How good it is to have willing hearts as safe depositories for your every secret, whose privity you fear less than your own, whose conversation allays your anxiety, whose counsel promotes your plans, whose cheerfulness dissipates your gloom, whose very appearance gives you joy.” On the bottom Saint-Gaudens inscribed the descriptive information: “William Evarts Beaman in His Fourth Year.”