Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of the most well known American sculptors in his day and as all great collectors know, designed the beloved $20 Saint-Gaudens. His work during the American Renaissance (American nationalism time period from 1876-1917) was widely acclaimed and admired.
Born: March 1, 1848 – Dublin, Ireland
Died: August 3, 1907 – Cornish, New Hampshire
Saint-Gaudens was born in Ireland but immigrated to America with his family when he was only 6 months old and grew up in New York City. His first education in the art of sculpting came when he attended the Cooper Union in 1861 as an apprentice for cameo cutting (carving gems and jewelry). Then at 19 years old, he attended one of the largest art schools in France, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, to learn sculpting under the guidance of French sculptor Francois Jouffroy. In pursuit of more knowledge and experience, he then studied art and architecture in Rome in 1870 where he met his future wife Augusta Fisher Homer.
From the 1870s on, Saint-Gaudens accomplished many notable sculptured works such as the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, monuments of Civil War Generals – John A. Logan and William Tecumseh Sherman and the statue Diana which stood atop Madison Square Garden from 1893-1925.
It was not until the early 1900s that Saint-Gaudens would take a shot at designing numismatics. In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him to design all 4 new gold coins for the country, a new Double Eagle – $20, Indian Head -$10 , Half Eagle -$5 and Quarter Eagle -$2.5 and a new cent.
Saint-Gaudens designed all 4 new gold pieces but unfortunately passed away due to a battle with cancer in August 1907 and did not live to see the minting of the coins. The designs for the $5 and $2.5 pieces were modified after his death by sculptor Bella Lyon Pratt. In addition, his original designs for this Double Eagle were modified from a raised design (High Relief) to a shallow design due to the impractical production and distribution of the coin. Despite issues with his original design, the $20 Saint-Gaudens and especially the High Reliefs are some of the most expensive and highly sought after coins in the world and has Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ name living on in the hearts of collectors.
Here at Atlas Gemstones & Rarities we have access to a wide variety of $20 Saint-Gaudens and $10 Indian Heads designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.