[Above] Louis Saint-Gaudens (1854-1913), previously attributed to Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Study for World’s Columbian Exposition Commemorative Presentation Medal, reverse, no date. Inscripcast bronze with hand-painted corrections, presumably by Saint-Gaudens. American Numismatic Society Collection.
[Below] Louis Saint-Gaudens (1854-1913), previously attributed to Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Study for World’s Columbian Exposition Commemorative Presentation Medal, reverse, 1892-1893. Cast plaster. 1974.63. Harvard Art Museum. Inscription, on recto: “The Columbian Exhibition in commemoration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Landing of Columbus *** to Williams Bradford. On shield: E Pluribus Unum. On verso: PHI”
In 1892, Augustus Saint-Gaudens accepted a commission to design the official award medal for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The United States Senate Quadro-Centennial Committee loved the design for the obverse or front, with Columbus taking his first step on the shores of the New World. Unfortunately, the nude male figure Saint-Gaudens called “the Spirit of America” on the reverse was deemed improper and replaced with a design by Charles E. Barber, chief engraver at the United States Mint. The medal was finally awarded to recipients in 1896.
Saint-Gaudens’ brother Louis is thought to have modeled the nude figure, for which the Harvard Art Museums has an 8 inch plaster and the Numismatics Society has a double-sided bronze. Only a few copies of the rejected medal were cast by Parisian medal engraver Ernest Paulin Tasset as a favor to Saint-Gaudens, who gave one to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Princeton’s medal was paged to the reading room this week, to see if ours has a design by Saint-Gaudens or Barber. For better or worse, ours is the official medal, with only one side designed by Saint-Gaudens.
See more: Michael F. Moran, Striking Change (2008).
See more: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/14941
See also in Firestone Library: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907), James McCosh (1811-1894), 1889. Bronze. PP35. Inscribed on front face of base: JAMES MCCOSH DD.LL D / BY / AUGUSTUS ST GAUDENS / WHEN THOU WALKEST THROUGH / THE FIRE THOU SHALT NOT BE / BURNED NEITHER SHALL THE / FLAME KINDLE UPON THEE