Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1853, William Couper studied at the Cooper Institute, New York, before moving to Munich in 1874 and entering the Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal College of Surgery. Due to ill health, he left for Italy the following year and while in Florence became acquainted with the sculptor Thomas Ball (d. 1911), a compatriot from Boston. The latter invited Couper to work in his studio, an offer which was gladly accepted. There, Couper devoted his time principally to portraiture and ideal works, such as the present figure entitled Coming of Spring, Psyche (1882; see lot 331, sold in these rooms 27 February 1997, for an example of this work) and Beauty's Wrath for Valour's Brow (1884). In 1883, the year after its conception, Coming of Spring was described by a journalist writing for the Boston Transcript as "a beautiful floating or flying figure, bearing a wreath of flowers. It has just been cast in plaster and is for Tiffany of New York. The cutting in marble will take about two years. The exquisite nymph...is so delicate that one wonders if she touches the flowers and leaves over which she is being borne by a light zephyr."
The original monumental marble version of Coming of Spring is now in National Memorial Park, Falls Church, Virginia. Another example of the present one-half size reduction was sold Christie's New York, 24 May, 1995, lot 45.