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A Dinner in Honor of an American Sculptor-Augustus Saint Gaudens

7 posts in this topic

I picked up this small plaquette several years ago in an auction, yet don't know much about it. It was made by the Medallic Art Company for a dinner in honor of Augustus Saint Gaudens held on April 9, 1937. Hence, this post is on the sixty-eighth anniversary of the dinner. As I understand it, the plaquette was given to each of the invited guests. You can imagine that such a plaquette was not exactly inexpensive, yet I know little about it other than I was in a bidding war with njcoincrank for this piece.




The obverse has a splendid and forceful bust of Saint Gaudens and, written above it along with his name, is


on the left side and


on the right side.


I have no clue what "Aetatislvi" stands for. The lower left obverse field has the date of the work and a monogram. The work was dated 1934 and the monogram is JF. This may mean that James Earle Fraser, the designer of the Buffalo nickel, was the author of this work. However, the monogram on this plaquette does not match the style of Fraser's signature for a large bronze plaque of Theodore Roosevelt that he prepared in 1920 and that I own several copies of. The Roosevelt plaque was sold by DecArts. An intriguing note is that Fraser did study under Saint Gaudens and much of his work shows many of the same features of a Saint Gaudens piece. He was also active at this time as he died in 1953. Of particular interest, Fraser produced the forceful bust of Saint Gaudens that was installed in the NYU Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1926 and this plaquette feels eerily similar in style and spirit.




Alternatively, and somewhat in an ironic vein, the JF monogram may stand for John Flanagan, the author of the Washington quarter. I write that this is somewhat ironic as it was James Earle Fraser's wife, the eminent medallist Laura Gardin Fraser, who won the competition to design the Washington quarter, as judged by the Commission of Fine Arts, only to see Flanagan's design put into production at the insistence of Treasury Secretary Andrew W Mellon. Mellon has long been labeled a misogynist for this decision, but in all my years of researching this decision I have never found one shred of evidence to suggest that that was the case. It is my opinion that Mellon simply prefered the Flanagan design over the Fraser design. Laura Gardin Fraser's design later became the model for the 1999 Washington half-eagle commems.


Flanagan also worked for and was a student of Saint Gaudens and I believe both he and Fraser worked for Saint Gaudens at the same time. He and Fraser were exact contemporaries as Flanagan was also active at this time and died in 1952. Something else that might point to Flanagan as the plaquette author is that he modeled a portrait of Saint Gaudens during Saint Gaudens lifetime and this model was later used, in the 1930s, to produce a bronze miniature portrait that is currently in the Harvard University Fogg Art Museum. The Flanagan work is also recreated on a larger scale in New York University’s Hall of Remembrance for American Artists.




The reverse of this puzzling little plaquette bears the wording

In Honor Of An American Sculptur Augustus Saint Gaudens

all in upper case and with triangular stops between words. Similarly, an all upper case sentence on the bottom of the plaquette states

Sculptors Dinner Of The Medallic Art Company NY April 9 1937

I have gone to the Medallic Art Company website and the company has absolutely no information on their medals. It appears that the company is the same company in name only and that it has moved several times over the years.


Does anyone have any information they might be able to share with me and the rest of us about this piece?


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Thank you for the information, Tom. It adds more to the fascinating knowledge about the interwoven lives of these great artists and their times.

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An interesting piece of history.....Thanks, Tom!


It is not uncommon for an artist to change how he or she may sign their works over the years. Authenticators often use the change in signature for dating pieces.



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