Emma Stebbins is the sculptor of “The Angel of the Waters” (1873), also known as “Bethesda Fountain,” located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York. According to Central Park historian Sara Cedar Miller, Stebbins received the commission for the sculpture as a result of influence from her brother Henry, who at the time was president of the Central Park Board of Commissioners. Henry was proud of his sister’s talent and hoped to have many examples of her art in Central Park.
Angel of the Waters was created to celebrate the clean, healthful water from New York’s Croton Aqueduct, completed in 1842, with an oblique reference to the biblical “healing waters of Bethesda”. The fountain complex is widely considered to be one of the great works of nineteenth century American sculpture.
Stebbins’ bronze statue of educator Horace Mann was installed outside the State House in Boston in 1865.
Stebbins worked for most of her life in Rome. She was the longtime companion of actress Charlotte Cushman, and part of the circle of expatriate women celebrities and artists which included Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis, and others. Stebbins is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.