PREV ARTICLE       NEXT ARTICLE       FULL ISSUE       PREV FULL ISSUE      

V10 2007 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE




The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 35, September 3, 2007, Article 5

ANS OPENS SAINT-GAUDENS EXHIBIT: “I SUPPOSE I SHALL BE IMPEACHED FOR IT…”

According to a press release issued August 24, "The American
Numismatic Society, in conjunction with the Saint-Gaudens
National Historic Site and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,
takes great pleasure in announcing the opening of an important
and unprecedented new exhibition: “I suppose I shall be impeached
for it…” Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and America’s
Most Beautiful Coin.  This exhibit, held at the Federal Reserve
Bank of New York at 33 Liberty St., will be on view from
September 20, 2007 through March 31, 2008.

"2007 marks not only the centenary year of both the death of
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, America’s greatest sculptor of the late
19th and early 20th centuries, but also the release of his
revolutionary and controversial designs for the twenty- and
ten-dollar gold pieces.  Today these are hailed as the most
beautiful coins ever produced by the United States. At a White
House diplomatic supper in January 1905, President Theodore
Roosevelt approached Augustus Saint-Gaudens with his hopes to
improve upon the “atrocious hideousness” of America’s coins.
Although the artist was reluctant to agree to the President’s
wishes due to ill health and prior unpleasant experiences
with the United States Mint, Saint-Gaudens took on the task.
This partnership of artist and president to create new
designs for coinage remains unparalleled in American history.

"Saint-Gaudens approached the commission as he did any other,
making rapid-fire pencil sketches and rough clay models cast
in plaster.  Guiding the younger and steadier hands of his chief
assistant, Henry Hering, the designs metamorphosed from concept
to reality.  It was an arduous process which saw Saint-Gaudens
fine tuning the design elements as he met resistance every step
of the way from the United States Mint - most particularly from
its contentious and intensely jealous chief engraver, Charles
Barber.

"In February 1907, Saint-Gaudens held the first examples of
his concept struck in gold.  More than mere coins, they were
fully realized sculptures on a miniature scale.  The President
was overjoyed, but the high-relief of the coins rendered them
useless for everyday commerce. For the next half year (the last
few months of his life) Saint-Gaudens worked with his assistant
in an effort to retain the coin’s majesty while making it
suitable for the rigors of circulation.

"At the time of Saint-Gaudens’s death in August 1907 the job
was not yet done, but Roosevelt kept the flame alive, insisting
that a second mintage of reduced high-relief “double eagles” be
struck.  Although approximately 12,000 of these were made, they
too failed the test and ultimately Charles Barber’s flattened
relief prevailed.

"The exhibition at the New York Federal Reserve Bank will, for
the first time, draw together elements of all phases of this
remarkable partnership and commission.  The collections of the
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site and the American Numismatic
Society contain an incomparable array of material charting
virtually all phases of the commission as well as Saint-Gaudens’
career as a cameo-cutter, sculptor and medalist.

"Examples of early cameos will be displayed along with some of
the classical numismatic prototypes that Saint-Gaudens is known
to have used as inspiration.  Examples of his medallic work
ranging from private commissions for friends to the 1889 Washington
Inaugural Centennial to examples of the Columbian Exposition
Award medal will be included.

"The centerpiece of the exhibition will be the progression of
the design process for the new coinage and will concentrate on
the “double eagle”.  Correspondence with the president, examples
of Saint-Gaudens’ original pencil sketches, plaster models, and
the massive 12-inch plaster of the famed Ultra High Relief will
be on view.  Included will be the series of electrotypes for
the ultra high relief coin, showing the progression of the
multiple strikes needed to fully bring up the detail.

"Augustus Saint-Gaudens quite literally gave some of his
very last thoughts to bettering his fellow Americans’ coinage.
The depth of his impact can be still be felt in our pockets
today, for the inventiveness and artistic integrity that Saint-
Gaudens brought to American coin design was continued by his
students’ work: James Earle Fraser’s buffalo nickel, Adolf
Weinman’s mercury dime and walking Liberty half dollar, and
finally James Flanagan’s Washington quarter which is still
circulating today.

“I suppose I shall be impeached for it…” Theodore Roosevelt,
Augustus Saint-Gaudens and America’s Most Beautiful Coin will
be on view at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at 33 Liberty
Street, New York, NY from September 20, 2007 through March 31,
2008.  Exhibition hours are 10:00am to 4:00pm Monday through
Friday.  Those interested in attending the press preview on
September 19, 2007 should contact Megan Fenselau of the
American Numismatic Society at (212) 571-4470 ext. 1311 or
fenselau@numismatics.org."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google
 
coinbooks.org Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address: whomren@coinlibrary.com

To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.

PREV ARTICLE       NEXT ARTICLE       FULL ISSUE       PREV FULL ISSUE      

V10 2007 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE


Copyright © 1998 - 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster