December 10, 2018

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Icon of American art restored and on view at the Amon Carter Museum

Icon of American art restored and on view at the Amon Carter Museum

Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is on public view for the first time in Fort Worth

FORT WORTH, Texas—The Amon Carter Museum of American Art announces today the conservation and installation of an icon of American art, Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907). The 7-foot-tall cement sculpture of the Roman goddess of the hunt was created in 1894 by artist Saint-Gaudens as a gift to his friend, architect Stanford White (1853–1906).

Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by White around 1887 to create a sculpture to adorn the top of Madison Square Garden in New York City. The initial version designed by Saint-Gaudens was deemed too large for the building and was replaced with a monumental 13-foot-tall, bronze weathervane of Diana, which adorned the top of the building from 1893 to 1925. White was so enamored with Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture that he asked him for a half-sized version for his own garden. The artist presented a 7-foot-tall cement Diana to White in 1894, and the sculpture resided at White’s estate in Box Hill, New York, for more than 30 years. Today, that remarkable sculpture, a gift from one friend to another, is part of the Amon Carter’s permanent collection and on view for the first time in Fort Worth.

“When you see Diana, she may look familiar to you, as the design was one of Saint-Gaudens’ most highly prized creations,” says curator Maggie Adler. “Ours, however, has a unique history as a treasured possession of one of America’s greatest architects and the model on which many other versions were based. I like to think of her as the ‘mother’ of Dianas.”

The Amon Carter acquired the cement sculpture in the 1980s along with a bronze companion that had remained in the White Family. At that time, the torso and legs of the cement version—created as two separate pieces—were no longer attached to one another. The sculpture was temporarily restored to exhibitable shape for an extended loan to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. When Diana returned to the Amon Carter in the 1990s, the sculpture, needing long-term attention, stayed in the museum’s storage vaults.

In 2017, Adler led a process to return the 124-year-old sculpture back to public view. The museum engaged Adam Jenkins, a Philadelphia-based conservator specializing in large-scale sculpture, to restore Diana to her former glory.

Jenkins began by peering inside Diana’s body using gamma radiography to inspect for corrosion. The structure was strong, providing the green light to proceed with conservation. He stabilized surface cracks by injecting adhesive, and devised a 3D printed structure to fit in the torso to provide a stronger connection between the top and bottom. Art handlers and conservators were able to use a mechanized lift to bring the heavy top and bottom halves together for a more permanent fit.

“A process like this is one of the most special aspects of a museum professional’s career,” says Adler. “To bring an icon of American art back to public attention feels like bringing history back to life. How fortunate that we can rely on the talent of experts and investigate the past to restore Saint-Gaudens’ vision for future generations.”

Diana is currently on view in the Amon Carter’s Main Gallery.

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