Twenty Dollar Coin, “Walking Liberty,” Obverse (1907) by Augustus Saint-GaudensNational Park Service, Museum Management Program
This plaster model (maquette) is a positive cast-mold for the obverse of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ United States Twenty-Dollar Gold Piece (“Double Eagle”). One of a hundred models by Saint-Gaudens, writing on the back indicates this was his final choice. Written in pencil in the artist’s hand: “Latest model sent to mint Dec. 15 can be always be made from this model.”. The maquette features a standing figure of Liberty, modeled after Saint-Gaudens’ Victory from the Sherman Monument. The figure ascends a rock, holding a torch in her right hand, and olive branch in her left. The Capitol building, barely visible in the lower right corner set against the sun’s rays extends outward in the lower half of the background. The outer edge of 46 stars creates a border arcing over “Liberty,” extending to the date “MCMVII” and artist’s monogram.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, SAGA 949
The maquette was selected to represent the park’s collection for several reasons. The Twenty-Dollar gold piece became one of the most valuable, rare, and controversial US coins in history. In addition, the maquette’s artistic attributes are found in other works by the artist. The modeling technique of this piece is similar to that applied to cameo cutting, sculptural relief and portraiture. The choice of imagery is symbolic Americana, suggesting ideals of progress. The artist often used allegorical figures, seen in The Shaw Memorial and Amor Caritas. Historically, the object represents a unique collaboration between Saint-Gaudens and President Theodore Roosevelt. The President’s shared appreciation for high relief Greek coinage led him to commission the artist to prepare designs for the one-cent, ten-dollar, and twenty-dollar coins. As the first professional sculptor in the US to produce designs for the nation’s coinage, the work inspired others who contributed to a numismatic legacy. The maquette is an exemplary testament to enduring artistry.
Park museum staff from Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach