Daniel Chester French

Spirit of the Waters

In 1913, Daniel Chester French was commissioned to make a monument in memory of Spencer Trask, a fountain that was to be situated in Saratoga Springs, New York. This monument came to be known as the Spirit of Life. Completed in 1915, the first design for the monument was a model of an angel with outstretched arms and a downturned head. It was rejected by Trask's widow who preferred a more active pose. French kept his first model and subsequently made two bronzes of it; he titled the "Spirit of the Waters." One is at Chesterwood, French's summer home and studio (it had originally been at a Newport, Rhode Island, home) and the other is at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a gift of Grenville. L. Winthrop.

"Spirit of the Waters" is a stunningly sculpture. The downcast gaze of the angel, her immense, thick, heavy wings (see the back view below) and the long, graceful, delicate arms, hands and fingers make for a memorable image. It can be found on the second floor of the Fogg Art Museum. It is difficult to photograph it in natural, low light, but these photos will give an idea of the gracefulness and poetry of "Spirit of the Waters."

All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo in March 2005.

This photo shows a full view of "Spirit of the Waters" including the pedestal. The bronze is three feet high.

The delicate reach of the arms and fingers can be seen in this photo.

A view of "Spirit of the Waters" from the left side.

A view of "Spirit of the Waters" from the right side.

While the view is rather dark due to the lighting, this photo shows the thickness and heaviness of the angel's wings which contrast with the lighter view of the front.

The angel's head and gaze are spectacular, downturned but not at all concerned. In context with the elegant positioning of the arms and legs, "Spirit of the Waters" takes on an active character.

Return to the Daniel Chester French: Sculptures In Situ page.

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