Thursday, December 1, 2016

Statue of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, erected in front of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1909.

The Statue of Diana the Hunter was erected in front of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The statue was displayed in front of the entrance to the museum for the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial Exhibition held from August 3 through November 11, 1909. Where are the Lions?

The two bronze lions that flank the Michigan Avenue entrance were made for the Art Institute's opening at its current location in 1893. They were a gift from Mrs. Henry Field, sister-in-law to Marshall Field. They have unofficial "names," given to them by their sculptor, Edward Kemeys, that are more like designations. You'll notice that the lions are not identical and thus are named for their poses: The south lion is "Standing in an Attitude of Defiance," while the north lion is "On the Prowl."
The lions have only been moved twice. Michigan Avenue was widened in 1909, and the statues were pushed 12 feet closer to the museum. In 2000, the lion, known as "standing in an attitude of defiance," was moved to make room for a reconstruction project that included renovating the foundation under the lions' pedestal and the museum's front staircase. It was gone for only six months.

Diana was commissioned by architect Stanford White as a weather vane for the tower of Madison Square Garden, a theater-and-dining complex at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. He talked his friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens into creating it at no charge and picked up the cost of materials. Model Julia "Dudie" Baird posed for the body of the statue. Its face is that of Davida Johnson Clark, Saint-Gauden's long-time model and mother of his illegitimate son Louis.

The first version – built by the W. H. Mullins Manufacturing Company in Salem, Ohio – was 18 ft tall and weighed 1,800 lbs. Saint-Gaudens' design specified that the figure appears to delicately balance on its left toe atop a ball. However, the Ohio metal shop could not pass the rotating rod through the toe, so the design was altered, and the figure poised (less gracefully) on its heel instead.

Diana was unveiled atop Madison Square Garden's tower on September 29, 1891. The 304-foot building had been completed a year earlier and was the second-tallest in New York City. But the addition of the statue made it the city's tallest, by 13 feet. The figure's billowing copper foulard (scarf) was intended to catch the wind, but the statue did not rotate smoothly because of its weight. Diana's nudity offended moral crusader Anthony Comstock and his New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. To placate Comstock and to increase the likelihood of its catching the wind, Saint-Gaudens draped the figure in cloth, but the fabric blew away.

Soon after installation, White and Saint-Gaudens concluded that the figure was too large for the building and decided to create a smaller, lighter replacement. Following less than a year atop the tower, the statue was removed and shipped to Chicago to be exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. New Yorker W. T. Henderson wrote a tongue-in-cheek poetic tribute – "Diana Off the Tower" – a play on the statue's name and situation.

Saint-Gaudens was head of the Chicago 1893 World's Colombian Exposition's sculpture committee. His initial plan had been to place "Diana" atop the Women's Pavilion, but the city's Women's Christian Temperance Union protested and insisted that the controversial nude figure be clothed. Instead, it was placed atop the Agricultural Building.

The catalog Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age contains this information on page 81:
"The original eighteen-foot figure was reused as the finial on the dome of McKim, Mead, and White's Agriculture Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 but was subsequently lost in the fire that destroyed the empty exposition buildings in June 1894." The lower half of the statue was destroyed; the upper half survived the fire but was later lost or discarded.

The Art Institute of Chicago was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Thank you, Nathaniel Park, Director, Art Institute of Chicago Archives, for verifying my article and providing nuance to the story.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens designed the official bronze medallion given to the top 20 percent of all "contests" at the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition. (No Gold, silver, or any type of Ribbons, blue or otherwise, were officially given to contestants at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.) source 
Saint-Gaudens' design for the reverse of this medal was not used, despite the sculptor's eventual willingness to modify it. It was rejected by the United States Senate Quadro-Centennial Committee because the premature circulation of a photograph of the new design fostered criticism of the youth's nudity. Saint-Gaudens attempted various modifications but ultimately refused to alter his design and solicited public support for his cause. The art world supported him against the committee's action but to no avail. Saint-Gaudens made a model which eliminated the figure altogether, retaining only the inscription. This last model was adopted by Mint engraver Charles F. Barber for the final design. Saint-Gaudens' design of Columbus for the obverse, however, was retained. Louis Saint-Gaudens assisted his brother with this commission.


  1. Fascinating! I never knew about the status of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. The Lions are so much a part of the Art Institute. Now, thanks to you, I know their names.

  2. What of the 'layered' pillar to the left in the picture of the Goddess Diana. I spy a lion face on it as well as other images and design...


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