Judge Edwards Pierrepont

Copied Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Judge Edwards Pierrepont, 1874, marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mary Pierrepont Beckwith, 1968.65.1
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Artwork Details

Title
Judge Edwards Pierrepont
Date
1874
Dimensions
29 1221 3413 58 in. (75.055.234.7 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Mary Pierrepont Beckwith
Mediums
Mediums Description
marble
Classifications
Keywords
  • Occupation — law — judge
  • Dress — historic — classical dress
  • Portrait male — Pierrepont, Edwards — bust
Object Number
1968.65.1

Artwork Description

Augustus Saint-Gaudens grew annoyed with his demanding sitter Edwards Pierrepont, who was a prominent lawyer and jurist. The sculptor reluctantly obeyed repeated requests that his portrait be improved to look more like the busts of Socrates, Seneca, and Plato that Pierrepont admired. He told the young sculptor that these men had “very broad foreheads.” The artist complied, but Pierrepont demanded further adjustments until the head, in the sculptor’s words, “seemed to be affected with some dreadful swelling disease.” The contemporary obsession with phrenology---the “science” of reading character based on the shape of the skull---likely drove Pierrepont to make such demands.

Luce Object Quote

“He [Saint-Gaudens] said he’d give anything to get hold of that bust and smash it to atoms.” David Armstrong, 1920