Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)
1893, carved 1894
40 3/4 x 25 1/2 in., 143lb. (103.5 x 64.8 cm)
Gift of Charles W. Gould, 1915
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774
In 1893 the New York lawyer Charles W. Gould commissioned Saint-Gaudens to complete a portrait of his late wife, Louise Adele Dickerson Gould (b. 1856), who died in 1883 at age twenty-six, after less than three years of marriage. Using photographs for reference, the sculptor modeled the demure Mrs. Gould as she appeared in fashionable bridal finery on her wedding day, St. Agnes Eve, January 20, 1881. The reference to St. Agnes, who is associated with purity and martyrdom, accentuates the melancholy of the sculpture. So too does its rectangular shape, which is evocative of a tombstone capped with an ornamental crest of acanthus scrolls, and the inscription on the lower portion of the panel: she seemed a splendid angel newly dressed save wings for heaven.
Inscription: [top of medallion]: LOVISE • ADELE • GOVLD / • SAINT • AGNES • EVE • M • D • C • C • C • LXXX • I •; [in tablet]: • SHE • SEEMED • A • SPLENDID / • ANGEL • NEWLY • DRESSED • / • SAVE • WINGS • FOR • HEAVEN