Posts Tagged ‘Augustus Saint-Gaudens’

A golden goddess topping Madison Square Garden

September 2, 2014

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.

Newyorksocietysuppressionvicelogo“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.

DiananytDiana scandalized some residents, and she was witness to a scandalous murder on the roof in June 1906.

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.

Why a Gramercy playground honors a sculptor

May 23, 2011

City parks and playgrounds named for a specific person usually memorialize a political bigwig or community leader, not an artist.

Which makes it a bit of a mystery as to why the playground on Second Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets is named for Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

It’s not that he doesn’t deserve the honor. Saint-Gaudens created many of late 19th century America’s most beautiful bronze sculptures.

He’s the genius behind the 1881 Admiral Farragut statue in Madison Square Park, as well as General Sherman on a horse led by winged Victory at Grand Army Plaza on Fifth Avenue, unveiled in 1903.

So why was his name given to a playground opened in 1966? It must have to do with his roots in the neighborhood.

When he was a boy, his French-born father, a cobbler, opened a shop on Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South) and 21st Street.

As a student, Saint-Gaudens attended Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design, on 23rd Street in the 1860s.

He then got himself a studio on 14th Street and Fourth Avenue—in the same building as up-and-coming architects Stanford White and Charles McKim.