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Augustus Saint-Gaudens
The Adams Memorial
modeled 1886–91, cast 1969
bronze
69 7/8 x 40 x 44 3/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum



This monument to a lost wife is one of America's most hauntingly eloquent sculptures. Remote, solitary, positioned against a wall with no name or identifying inscription, the shrouded figure remains mysterious and inaccessible. Depending on the light source, all features except nose and mouth lie buried in the shadows cast by her hood.

Writer, Harvard professor, and descendant of presidents, Henry Adams commissioned the statue to commemorate his wife, “Clover” Adams, who committed suicide in 1885. The sculptor fulfilled Adams's wish for a figure to symbolize “the acceptance, intellectually, of the inevitable.” Sometimes referred to as “Grief,” the first cast resides in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., over the graves of both Clover and Henry Adams.