Bessie Smith White, 1884

Bessie Springs Smith , daughter of Judge J. Lawrence Smith, married architect Stanford White on February 7, 1884. The portrait was done as a wedding present. Augustus Saint-Gaudens and White were close friends, and the delicacy and beauty of the portrait reflect his feelings for the architect. He was apparently not so sure of Bessie, whom he initially thought cold. The friendship between the architect and the sculptor, and perhaps his uncertainty about the subject, made the preparation of this portrait difficult. The sculptor’s Reminiscences describe a low point when the architect criticized the work in progress and the sculptor destroyed the piece.

This bronze, produced in Paris by Barbedienne in 1884, is a variant of the original marble portrait. The placement in the frame, with the right elbow set outside, is a unique experiment in Saint-Gaudens’ work.

Bronze, 19 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches
(49.5 x 26.7 cm.), collection of SGNHS