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Diana

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American (born Ireland), 1848 - 1907

Geography:
Made in Salem, Ohio, United States, North and Central America
And made in Cornish, New Hampshire, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1892-1893

Medium:
Gilded copper sheets

Dimensions:
Figure (Height): 157 inches (398.8 cm) Figure including Ball (Height): 174 inches (442 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

* Great Stair Hall Balcony, second floor

Accession Number:
1932-30-1

Credit Line:
Gift of the New York Life Insurance Company, 1932

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Diana is arguably the best-known work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was recognized at the turn of the century as the country’s finest sculptor. When installed in 1893 on the tower of New York’s Madison Square Garden to serve as a weather vane, Diana ruled the highest point in Manhattan. The sculpture’s gilded form caught the sun during the day and was illuminated at night by the city’s first electric floodlights.

Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art adopted the sculpture in 1932. Diana has reigned as the goddess of the Museum’s Great Stair Hall ever since. In 2013–14, Museum conservators repaired and preserved Diana’s copper structure and restored the sculpture’s original gold leaf finish. Diana gleams brilliantly once again through the support of Bank of America.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the most celebrated American sculptor of his day, created Diana as a weathervane for the tower of the first Madison Square Garden in New York, designed by his equally renowned friend and frequent collaborator, Stanford White. The lithe Roman goddess of the hunt, standing on tiptoe as she draws her bow, embodied the festive spirit of a building that was conceived as the "most magnificent amusement palace in the world." Like White's eclectic architecture Saint-Gaudens's graceful young woman referred to the great art of past ages and her presence in the Museum's vast Neoclassical stair hall seems perfectly apt. Her undraped figure was historically correct, but her athletic fitness and elongated proportions were strikingly modern, and her nudity initially provoked indignant comments. Hammered from thin copper sheets for lightness, Diana originally was gilded and had a drapery billowing out behind to catch the wind. Gleaming in sunshine or in electric spotlights--then still a novelty-- Diana on her three-hundred-foot tower was then the highest point in New York City, and she quickly gained respectability as a symbol of the sophistication of the growing metropolis. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 293.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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