Born in Dublin and raised in New York City, Saint-Gaudens was apprenticed to a cameo cutter while studying at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. He continued to study at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts and in Rome. Upon returning to New York, Saint-Gaudens became known for his equestrian sculptures and memorials to fallen Civil War heroes, most notably his gilded statue of William Tecumseh Sherman standing in front of New York’s Plaza Hotel. His collaboration with architects Stanford White and Charles McKim further elevated his reputation. Among his other notable works are the Admiral David Farragut Memorial Statue in Madison Square Park, his statue Diana which topped the weather vane of White’s Madison Square Garden and the Saint-Gaudens double eagle twenty-dollar gold coin, considered the finest American numismatic masterpiece.
Saint-Gaudens’ Standing Lincoln
Our letter possibly refers to the following event: Two days prior to our letter, Chicago lumber magnate Eli Bates died, leaving $40,000 to finance a monument to Abraham Lincoln. As hinted in our letter, Saint-Gaudens decided not to participate in the design competition. Nonetheless, the monument commission selected him to complete a statue to be erected in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The resulting 12-foot bronze statue dubbed Standing Lincoln or Abraham Lincoln: The Man is considered one of the most important American sculptures.
American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was raised in Cambridge and Concord, Massachusetts, artistically influenced by transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, and encouraged to become a sculptor by Louisa May Alcott. His first commission came at age 25 when he created The Minute Man as a memorial to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. After studying in Europe, French opened studios in Washington, D.C., Boston and New York City. Our letter presages French’s 1912 Lincoln sculpture installed at the Nebraska State House as well as his most famous work, the statue of Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial, completed in 1920. He is also known for his sculpture John Harvard in Harvard Yard and the relief The Angel of Death and the Sculptor.
Frederic Porter Vinton painted portraits in his Boston studio beginning in 1878 and exhibited his first work at New York’s National Academy of Design in 1880. Branching out into landscapes he became known for his impressionistic style. In 1891, he was elected a member of the Academy, of which Saint-Gaudens and, later, French were also members.
In 1883, Saint-Gaudens completed a memorial bronze relief of Reverend Alexander Hamilton Vinton, former rector of Boston’s Emmanuel Church who died on April 26, 1881. It is unclear if he is related to our letter’s presumed recipient.
Written on a folded sheet with some light creasing and wear; in fine condition.