Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, 1848–1907)
38 x 9 1/2 x 18 1/2 in. (96.5 x 24.1 x 47 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1917 (17.90.1)
This sculpture is a reduction after the large-scale female Victory that is part of the Sherman Monument (1892–1903; Grand Army Plaza, New York). The famed equestrian statue, dedicated to the Civil War hero William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891), is one of Manhattan's finest public sculptures. The ethereal winged figure is depicted as a guiding force, leading General Sherman in uniform astride his horse. Together they surge forward, their intent "to express victory and peace at the same time." Saint-Gaudens' Victory has traditional attributes—a crown of laurel on her head and a palm branch in her left hand. Her outstretched right arm leads the obedient horse, upon which sits a battle-hardened General Sherman. After moving to Paris in 1897, Saint-Gaudens turned in earnest to the figure of Victory, finding the naturalistic rendering of forward motion slow and tedious. He painstakingly arranged drapery on numerous nude models for Victory before settling on what he believed was the perfect flow of her robe. Letters written by Saint-Gaudens near the completion of the monument reveal his triumphant feelings about the figure of Victory. In a letter to his niece, Rose S. Nichols, he wrote, "It's the greatest 'Victory' anybody ever made. Hooraah!"
Reductions of Victory were not cast in bronze during Saint-Gaudens' lifetime; the Museum's gilded example was produced sometime between 1914 and 1916.