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Abbott Handerson Thayer
The Stevenson Memorial
1903
oil
81 7/8 x 60 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly



This enigmatic painting is Thayer's tribute to the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who married an American and traveled extensively in the United States, befriending many artists. He eventually moved to Samoa, where he died in 1894 and was buried on Mount Vaea. Stevenson's name and coat of arms originally appeared across the top of the canvas, but Thayer painted them out, leaving only the word VAEA on the rock to identify the subject. The angel, poised somewhat nonchalantly, recalls the angels who stood guard over Christ's tomb before His resurrection.