Artist: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire)
Date: 1883–86, cast 1899 or after
Dimensions: 30 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 13 in. (77.5 x 47 x 33 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Jacob Ruppert, 1939
Accession Number: 39.65.53
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. In "The Puritan," Saint-Gaudens successfully translated an abstract idea into three-dimensional form. Indeed, in "The Puritan" Saint-Gaudens dramatically conveyed the dedication, fortitude, and upright morals with which the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were synonymous. Deacon Chapin grasps a Bible in studded binding under his left arm, as he strikes forward with a knotty walking stick across the pine-strewn New England wilderness, symbolized by a few scattered branches on the base. His voluminous cape with curling collar envelops his figure. The broad brim of the buckled steeple hat casts a deep shadow over the deacon's eyes and echoes the wide mouth and square jaw. 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 twenty-five, reveal minor alterations to the figure, which at once add energy and soften the facial expression.