Artistic Classic, PR66 High Relief Twenty1907 $20 High Relief PR66 NGC. It is fairly well known that Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the "American Michelangelo," based his design for the double eagle on the winged goddess of Victory that forms part of the General William Tecumseh Sherman statue at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. Sherman's horse treads on pine cones and fronds, fatefully representing Georgia, which Sherman had torched in his terrible 1864 March to the Sea. The equestrian figure of General Sherman received the Grand Prix at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. The winged goddess of Victory leads Sherman's horse. She wears a headdress and strides purposefully forward, her right arm stretched out before her, giving the entire monument a rhythmic, driving propulsion. Her eyes are depthless blanks, her expression simultaneously tragic and inscrutable. Similar to the traditional olive sprig in Liberty's left hand on the coin, Victory bears a palm branch in her left hand.
One of Saint-Gaudens' great gifts--one that he shared with Michelangelo--was to be able to sculpt figures on a heroic scale, and yet imbue them with personality in the most human dimensions. It is perhaps less well known that Saint-Gaudens based the statue of Victory on the likeness of his mistress, Davida Clark. The General Sherman Monument, commissioned by the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1892, was the last large-scale work of Saint-Gaudens' cancer-shortened life. The final completed monument was installed in 1903. In the evolution from winged Victory to wingless Liberty, Saint-Gaudens managed to strip the nonessential from the female figure, while maintaining both her goddesslike grandeur and heroism as well as her powerfully human femininity. Removal of the wings and headdress allowed room for the de rigueur inscription above, focused more attention on the center of the coin, permitted Liberty's hair to blow freely in the breeze, and made more space beneath for the Capitol building.
This High Relief example clearly shows the diagnostics of NGC-acknowledged proofs. There is just a hint of a wire rim; the inner border is sharp; all the berries are well rounded; the pillars of the Capitol are fully and distinctly brought up; and the tail feathers are completely distinct to the right rim. In addition, this beautiful realization of Saint-Gaudens' artistic genius shows that ineluctable strength of definition throughout, with a purposeful strike and superb preservation that should remove any doubt as to its proof status in all but the most cynical. (NGC ID# 28AX, PCGS# 9132)
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Revised Edition by James L. Halperin, Mark R. Borckardt, Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan, with special contributor David W. Akers
The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is an issue-by-issue examination of these two artistically inspired series of gold coins.
Each date and mintmark is reviewed with up-to-date information, much of which has never been previously published. The book is based on
two extraordinary collections: The Phillip H. Morse collection and the Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor collection.
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