|Commissioning Entity||City of Pittsburgh|
|Owner||Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy|
|ADA Services||The memorial is directly beside the sidewalk that abutts the entrance of the Carnegie Library in Oakland.|
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), celebrated sculptor and educator, was commissioned to create a memorial for Christopher Lyman Magee - an influential Pittsburgh politician during the late 1800s, who was seen by many as either a generous and benevolent leader, or as a corrupt and smarmy rascal. Magee's most visible contribution to Pittsburgh is that of Magee Women's Hospital, named after his mother Elizabeth Steel Magee and built on his former estate, The Maples. Unveiled in 1908, the Christopher Lyman Magee Memorial was one of the last works by Saint-Gaudens before his death in 1907.
Today, the memorial stands near the entrance to the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. A granite stele rises from a basin, surrounded by exedra-esque granite forms. On the stele is a bronze relief of the allegorical figure of Charity, draped in flowing fabrics and holding an overflowing cornicopia. A selection of Portia's lines from The Merchant of Venice fill the middle ground of the relief: "The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes..." On the far righthand side of the relief is an oak tree, stretching up and across the top of the bronze tablet; inscribed at the bottom of the stele is the name, Christopher Lyman Magee. Originally, Saint-Gaudens designed the stele to include a portrait of Magee at the top, but later changed it to an anthemion.
Stelae were commonly used in Greek, Roman, African and Mayan cultures to commemorate leaders, mark territories, and to announce government notices. Stelae usually contained reliefs with ornamentation and text. Saint-Gaudens, eager to work in this form, included all of the formal elements typically found in this type of sculpture.
However, Saint-Gaudens' attention to detail was no surprise; he was known for undertaking painstaking research. Saint-Gaudens would collect photographs of sites, models, and any other items that might inspire and/or aid him in his work. He made small, clay models for nearly every sculpture, and as the work progressed, would enlarge photographs of figures to check the proportions.
Rachel Klipa, Office of Public Art
1. Evert, Marilyn. Discovering Pittsburgh Sculpture. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983.
2. National Gallery of Art. "Saint-Gaudens' Memorial to Shaw and the Fifty-fourth." Accessed March 3, 2017. https://www.nga.gov/feature/shaw/s2000.shtm
3. Roth, Mark. "Little-known Magee memorial in Oakland links political boss, famous sculptor." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 4, 2008.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) was born in Dublin, Ireland, but came to the United States as a baby with his parents. His career began as an apprentice stone-cutter, until he moved to Paris in 1867 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Saint-Gaudens remained in Europe, working from his studio in Rome, until 1873. When he returned to the United States, he moved to New York City and began collaborating with John La Farge (1835-1910), Standford White (1853-1906), Charles McKim (1847-1909), and others. Saint-Gaudens is considered to be the father of American sculpture for his commitment to education, establishing the Beaux-Arts style in American sculpture, and for beginning the process of artist-designed coins in the United States.
Architect Stanford White (1853-1906) designed the base on which the stele stands. Although an acclaimed architect, White had a dubious lifestyle and was murdered in 1906. See the links below to learn more about Standford White.