She was the second statue of Diana to grace the top of Stanford White’s Madison Square Garden, the sportsman’s playground with the glamorous roof garden that opened in 1890 on Madison Avenue and 26th Street.
But this figure of the gilded goddess was the most famous, a 13-foot huntress who balanced on one toe aiming a bow and arrow for 32 years.
Illuminated at night by electricity, her slender form, the work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, could be seen as far away as New Jersey.
And it goes without saying that her nudity offended some New Yorkers, particularly Anthony Comstock, head of the self-created New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
“The naked figure immediately caused outrage in some, and delight in others; it became known as the Statue That Offended New York,” states Atlas Obscura. “Critics led by the moralizing Anthony Comstock demanded it be taken down, whilst others flocked to see the sensuous Diana, glittering in the sunlight.”
To shush the critics, White had Saint-Gaudens drape a pennant over the statue to obscure Diana’s private parts. It quickly blew off in the wind, much to White’s delight.
That’s when White was shot dead by Harry Thaw, the jealous husband of showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. White had carried on a relationship with Nesbit since she was 16.
In 1924, Madison Square Garden was set to be demolished. Diana’s fate was hotly debated.
Some wanted her to grace the Municipal Building; others thought she should go atop the New York Life tower, which was replacing the Garden.
Where did she end up? In storage for six years, and then the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she greets visitors in the entrance hall to this day.
Tags: Anthony Comstock crusader vice, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Diana statue Madison Square Garden, famous statues New York City, New York in the 1890s, New York in the 1920s, Nude statues New York City, Stanford White Diana stutue