Davida Johnson Clark, the model whose classically beautiful features pervaded Augustus St. Gaudens’ visualizations of Diana, Victory, and Amor Caritas, is one of the most highly visible faces in neoclassical art. Yet the woman herself—St. Gaudens’ longtime mistress and mother of one of his sons—has almost disappeared from history.
A Swedish immigrant whose name was originally Albertina Hulgren, Davida was re-christened by St. Gaudens after Michelangelo’s David. Her great-granddaughter wrote a fictionalized biography of her in 2016.
This half-lifesize study for the Sherman Memorial’s personification of the goddess of Victory resides in the Augustus St. Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, NH.
The completed monument, in gilded bronze, stands just outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza on 60th Street and Fifth Avenue. Restored and re-gilded in 2013, the monument shines as St. Gaudens intended, and Victory again holds a palm frond in her left hand.
Victory, or Victoria, is “Nike” in her ancient Greek incarnation. A close companion of Zeus, Victoria is the divine charioteer, worshipped by Roman generals after successful battles. Ubiquitous in Roman society, winged Victories gradually became angels in Christian iconography.
I’d like to see an equestrian sculpture of Sally Farnham, near her monument to Simon Bolivar…