Diana (Saint-Gaudens)

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Diana MSG.jpg
Artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Year 1892-1893
Type Copper Sheets
Dimensions 442 cm (14 ft 6 in)
Location Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Diana, also known as "Diana of the Tower", is a copper statue, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Once a famous New York City landmark, for over three decades it sat atop of the second Madison Square Garden building. It is currently on display and owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The First Version (1891-1892)[edit]

"Diana" was commissioned by Stanford White, as a weathervane for his Madison Square Garden. The model was Julia "Dudie" Baird.[1] White talked his friend Saint-Gaudens into creating the statue for free and picked up the cost of materials himself.[2]

Saint-Gauden's first version of "Diana" standing in the foundry of the W.H. Mullins Manufacturing Company of Salem, Ohio, 1891.

The first version was built by the W. H. Mullins Manufacturing Company from Salem, Ohio, and unveiled on September 29, 1891.[3] It was 18 ft (5.5 m) tall and weighed 1,800 lb (820 kg). It was originally designed to attach to the tower at the figure's left toe and turn with the wind. However, the metal shop in Ohio found it difficult to pass the rotating rod through the foot, so the design was changed and the figure was instead poised on its heel. Because of the immense weight of the statue, however, the figure did not rotate as planned. Saint-Gaudens had also draped the statue in cloth which was to serve as a sail to catch the wind, but this was soon blown away.[4]

Soon after its installation, both White and Saint-Gaudens realized that the figure was disproportionately large for the building and decided to scale it down. In September 1892, it was removed and sent to Chicago to be exhibited at the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition. (Saint-Gaudens served as head of the fair's sculpture committee.) The statue had been sent to be displayed on top of the Women's Pavilion, but the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Chicago immediately protested this and insisted that the controversial nude figure be clothed.[5] Instead, it was decided that it be placed on top of the Agricultural Building. This original "Diana" did not survive; the bottom half was destroyed by a fire, after the close of the Exposition, and the top half was lost to history.[6]

The Second Version (1893-Present)[edit]

Second version of "Diana" was draped in cloth to address concerns of nudity. The cloth eventually blew away.

The second, smaller version of "DIANA" was completely redesigned by Saint-Gaudens to have a more elegant pose with a different thrust of the body, a thinner figure, smaller breasts and more feminine angle of the leg. To better fit the top of Madison Square Garden, the proportion was also scaled down to 13 feet (4m) tall. It was hoisted on top of the Garden on November 18, 1893.[7][8] This version was mounted as originally planned on its left toe and was made of hollowed, gilded copper, which made it light enough to rotate with the wind as originally designed.

At 347 feet above street level, the "Diana" statue was the highest point in New York City at the time. During the day, the gilded figure caught the sun and could be seen from all over the city and as far away as New Jersey. Electric lights, then a novelty, illuminated it at night; it was the first statue in history to be lit by electricity.

In 1925, Madison Square Garden was demolished to make way for the construction of the New York Life Building. Before the building was torn down, "Diana" was removed and preserved. It was intended for the statue to remain in New York City, however a seven year search to find a place to display it proved futile. In 1932, the New York Life Insurance Company, who now owned the property, presented "Diana" to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a gift where it remains today, displayed at the top of its Great Stair Hall.[9]


The statue offended Anthony Comstock and his New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. A drapery was fashioned to cover the statue's nudity, but blew off.[10]

Smaller Variations[edit]

Saint-Gaudens produced several reduced examples, which are at the National Gallery of Art,[11] Indianapolis Museum of Art,[12][13] Cleveland Museum of Art,[14] Metropolitan Museum of Art,[15] Brookgreen Gardens,[16] and Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.[17]

Half-size gilt version of "Diana" on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1928, some casts were made from the half size cement cast, which is now in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art[18]

In Popular Culture[edit]

The 1981 film of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime used the second version of the "Diana" statue as the cause of a major conflict between Stanford White and Harry K. Thaw. In the film, it is suggested that the model for the statue was Thaw's wife Evelyn Nesbitt. Thaw demands that the statue be taken down from the top of the Garden as it is an embarrassment to him. The character is seen gazing angrily at the statue before shooting White to death at the Rooftop Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 25, 1906.

This is a completely fictionalized account. The second version of "Diana" was placed on the tower in 1893, when Nesbitt was only about nine years old and eight years before she was introduced to White.

Poetic tributes[edit]


External links[edit]