US Coins

Saint-Gaudens bronze sculptures to sell at Sotheby’s

Two sculptures by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens with ties to his numismatic work will be offered at Sotheby’s in its June 26 American Art auction in New York City. The artist is well-known to numismatists as the designer of the Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle and Indian Head $10 eagles of 1907 to 1933.

Measuring at a manageable 8 inches tall (not including the base), the sculptor’s bronze Head of Victory is a figure with facial features similar to those seen on his Indian Head eagle, with a laurel wreath reminiscent of the striding Liberty on his double eagle. The design of Victory in profile was used more directly by Saint-Gaudens in a pattern for a cent that was unrealized in coin form.

The sculpture at Sotheby’s was conceived between 1897 and 1903, dated 1904, and cast with a reddish-brown patina by Gorham Foundry.

Another casting of this sculpture was the first significant sculpture by the artist acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 1907. The Met writes, “Head of Victory derives from one of several studies Saint-Gaudens made for the striding, windblown allegorical figure on his monument (1892–1903) to the Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman at the southeast corner of Manhattan’s Central Park.”

At Sotheby’s it carries an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

Lincoln by Saint-Gaudens

Abraham Lincoln: The Man (Standing Lincoln) was modeled by the sculptor between 1884 and 1887, then reduced in 1910 to a 40-inch model and cast afterward. The offered bronze, cast by Gorham with a brown patina, carries a copyright date of 1912 and was cast in 1917.

The original sculpture was larger than life, a monumental work for Chicago’s Lincoln Park that was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1887. After the artist’s death in 1907, the artist’s widow, Augusta, authorized the casting of more accessibly sized reductions of the original monument.

Sotheby’s notes, “Extant correspondence, however, reveals that Saint-Gaudens was interested in reproducing his Standing Lincoln in a smaller scale during his lifetime, as by the 1890s the production of smaller versions of his monuments had become a common part of his practice, affording the artist a more regular source of income in between more sporadic public commissions.”

The example set for sale at Sotheby’s carries an estimate of $600,000 to $900,000 and is from an edition of approximately 17, of which the first castings were by Tiffany Studios in New York, with later production moved to Gorham in 1917. These authorized estate castings stopped by the early 1920s.

Also of interest to collectors is the eagle on the Chair of State, with open wings, a design reflected on several Saint-Gaudens medals and reliefs, including his 1889 George Washington Inaugural Commission medal reverse.

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