Portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.
AMERICA’S MOST BEAUTIFUL MONEY
President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to create captivating new American coins inspired by high-relief classical Greek designs. For this project, he selected the gifted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who conceived beautiful designs for the ten- and twenty-dollar gold pieces. Saint-Gaudens’s ideas transformed traditional coinage into unprecedented works of art.
Although Saint Gaudens’s design for the twenty dollar piece (the Double Eagle) retained a traditional Liberty figure, he recast her striding purposefully forward, full of confidence. His eagle, also energized, flies above the sun.
These ultra-high relief coins proved hard to make. Saint-Gaudens’s concepts were scaled down to a lower relief. But the Mint’s chief engraver insisted on yet a lower relief. He prevailed and what once had been an artistic masterpiece was literally flattened.
Legendary Beauties The following objects are in this section.