The most talented and accomplished American sculptor of the nineteenth century, Augustus Saint-Gaudens created over the course of his career a pantheon of public statuary commemorating presidents, military commanders, clerics, tycoons, and social lions. Among his most famous works is the stern, striding figure of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595-1675). Standing over eight feet tall, the statue was commissioned to honor one of the founders of Springfield, Massachusetts. However, with no surviving likeness of Chapin to guide him, Saint-Gaudens opted for what he called "an embodiment of the Puritan."
The sculpture proved so popular that the artist produced a reduced version, of which this is one of many casts. Draped in a great billowing cloak, the figure projects an austere and commanding presence. He advances toward the viewer, cradling a weighty Bible in his arm, his down-turned eyes shadowed by the wide-brimmed hat -- the incarnation of righteous and unshakable purpose.