Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)
1883–86, cast 1899 or after
30 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 13 in. (77.5 x 47 x 33 cm)
Bequest of Jacob Ruppert, 1939
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774
In 1881 Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by Chester W. Chapin, a railroad tycoon and congressman, to sculpt a large-scale bronze likeness of an ancestor, Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595–1675), one of the three founding fathers of Springfield, Massachusetts. The sculptor wrote in his "Reminiscences" that: "The statue . . . was to represent Deacon Samuel Chapin, but I developed it into an embodiment . . . of the 'Puritan.'" On Thanksgiving Day 1887, "The Puritan" was unveiled on Stearns Square in Springfield, at one end of a site designed by Stanford White. The monument was relocated to Merrick Park in 1899. In "The Puritan," Saint-Gaudens successfully translated an abstract idea into three-dimensional form. The figure is not an individual portrait, but a representation of Puritan dogma. Eyes focused downward, he strides with a knotty walking stick across the pine-strewn New England wilderness, symbolized by a few scattered branches on the base. About 1894, Saint-Gaudens resolved to make reductions after the full-size "Puritan," because of the statue's popularity and for the income he would derive. Located reductions, which number more than forty, reveal minor alterations to the figure, which at once add energy and soften the facial expression. By mid-1898 bronze reductions were being cast in Paris. Examples vary in the angles of the hat and the walking stick and particularly in the coloration, which ranges from gold to brown to the green of the Metropolitan's cast.
Signature: [top of base, right]: AVGVSTVS SAINT GAVDENS; [top of base, near rear center]: • COPYRIGHT BY • / AVGVSTVS SAINT-GAVDENS / • MDCCCXCIX •
Inscription: [front of base, in tablet]: • THE • PURITAN •