Cornelius Vanderbilt I

Augustus Saint-Gaudens American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

Saint-Gaudens’s work for Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s grand residence on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Seventh Street included three low-relief portraits of family members. The posthumous likeness of patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt I, a steamship and railroad entrepreneur, presents the Commodore, as he was known, posed in profile against a dense background of oak leaves and acorns. This motif, symbolizing strength and regeneration, was adapted from the family coat of arms, visible at the lower right. Saint-Gaudens’s bas-relief style underwent a noticeable shift in the early 1880s to incorporate such aestheticizing elements, rendering this portrait in harmony with the sumptuous tapestries and embossed leathers that decorated the house’s interior.

Cornelius Vanderbilt I, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire), Bronze, American

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