Arthur Shippee forwarded this interesting New York Times article about the relationship between landscape architect Stanford White and
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the famed sculptor who designed some of the United States' greatest coins. The article also mentions and pictures an unusual Saint-Gaudens medal I'd never heard of before.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition of the sculpture of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, rich with the work of one of the key figures in the American Renaissance, ends next Sunday. A running theme in the show — indeed, in Saint-Gaudens's entire life — is his enduring friendship with the architect Stanford White. As it happens, they were interested in delights not only artistic, but earthly.
The sculptor quickly became fast friends with McKim and White, who would design many of the settings for his sculptures. He made a satirical medal to commemorate a trip they made to southern France in 1878. At top, a wild-eyed White stares out from underneath a startling shock of hair, on the right McKim's near-baldness is lampooned with an exaggerated high forehead and at left Saint-Gaudens portrayed his naturally pointy face made even pointier by drawing out his goatee.
Saint-Gaudens was particularly close to Stanford White, and in 1884 gave White and his new wife, the former Bessie Smith, a marble relief portrait of Mrs. White as a wedding present. But at the same time it is known that the sculptor and architect enjoyed a life of enthusiastic unchastity.
Paul R. Baker is emeritus professor of history at New York University, and his book "Stanny: The Gilded Life of Stanford White" (Free Press, 1989) delicately summarizes their activities in rooms rented by their secret "Sewer Club." Sometimes Saint-Gaudens signed his letters to White with epigrams like "Kiss me where I can't" or a phallic symbol. Such ribaldry may have been traditional masculine ribbing, although Professor Baker notes a continuing thread of homoerotic overtones.
To read the complete article, see:
Gilded-Age Monuments and Secrets
Wayne Homren, Editor
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