Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)
Property from the Estate of Richard J. Schwartz
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)

Robert Louis Stevenson

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)
Robert Louis Stevenson
inscribed with the poem "Youth Now Flees on Feathered Foot" (upper left)--inscribed 'TO ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON' and '·AUGUSTUS·/·SAINT·GAUDENS·/·1888·' (upper right)--inscribed 'COPYRIGHT·BY·AVGVTVS·ST.·GAVDENS·1892/Cast by The Henry-Bonnard Bronze Co., New. York. 1893.' (lower center)
bronze with dark brown patina
35 in. (89 cm.) diameter
Modeled in 1887; cast by 1900.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the sitter.
Isobel Strong, by descent.
Anderson Auction Company, New York, 24 November 1914, sold by the above.
George D. Smith, New York, acquired from the above.
George Hewitt Myers, Washington, D.C., acquired from the above, 1915.
Textile Museum, Washington, D.C., gift from the above.
Sotheby’s, New York, 1 December 2011, lot 1, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.
J.H. Dryfhout, B. Fox, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: The Portrait Reliefs, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1969, no. 40, another example illustrated.
J.H. Dryfhout, The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1982, pp. 174-76, no. 133, other examples illustrated.
C.A. Cibulka, Marble and Bronze: 100 Years of American Sculpture, 1840-1940, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1984, p. 15, no. 10, another example illustrated.
K. Greenthal, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Master Sculptor, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1985, pp. 119-21, figs. 114-16, other examples illustrated.
M.A. Goley, B. Wilkinson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor, From the Collection of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1992, pp. II, VIII, no. 31.
T. Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. I, New York, 1999, pp. 288-91, no. 124, another example illustrated.
H.J. Duffy, J.H. Dryfhout, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 2003, pp. 105-07, no. 67, another example illustrated.
T. Tolles, Augustus Saint-Gaudens in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2009, p. 29, fig. 34, another example illustrated.

Lot Essay

Upon reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s The New Arabian Nights, Augustus Saint-Gaudens wrote to his friend, painter Will H. Low, “if Stevenson ever crossed to this side of the water, I should consider it an honor, if he would allow me to make his portrait.” (as quoted in T. Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. I, New York, 1999, p. 288) Low, who knew the writer well, took it upon himself to arrange a meeting of the two men, and in 1887, Saint-Gaudens began work on the present bronze portrait relief.

First convening over the course of five sessions at the Hotel Albert in New York where Stevenson was staying, Saint-Gaudens subsequently finished the modeling of the work in Manasquan, New Jersey, the following spring. Ill with tuberculosis, Stevenson is depicted in bed, propped up on pillows with a cigarette in hand and a sheaf of papers on his lap. Soon after these sittings, Stevenson moved to Samoa, and the two men never met again, although they would correspond through letters up to the writer's death in 1894.

In casting the relief in bronze, Saint-Gaudens initially created a rectangular composition, but after coming to the conclusion that the work was much improved by a circular format, the sculptor removed the lower portion of the bed and rearranged the ivy border and inscription to fit the new shape. The first of the 35-inch diameter medallions, made for collector George A. Armour, was cast in 1890 at the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company, New York. Three more casts were made in this size before 1900, including one for collector Benjamin Cable, one for Stevenson himself (the present lot), and another for his friend and biographer Sidney Colvin. All casts in this 35-inch size are unique, with changes in drapery, dedications and other details. In addition to the four casts made before 1900, there are later casts in this size held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; and the Robert Louis Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, California.

After Stevenson’s death, a renewed interest in his writings led Saint-Gaudens to cast editions of the bronze in several reductions. This image of Stevenson, in all its variations and sizes, served, and continues to serve, as a powerful homage to a talented and much admired figure in Western literature.

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