Overall with base: 23 3/4 H x 20 W x 9 1/2 D inches
This captivating portrait displays the hallmarks of Story’s best work in marble. Known for his Classical friezes and female portraits, Story’s most complete figures boast finely-modeled hair and deeply-set eyes that exude a real sense of presence, seeming to gaze out at the viewer. This portrait pays tribute to turn-of-the-century fashion, simultaneously conveying the youth and status of its sitter. While many of Story’s portrait busts depict older women in more mature and revealing couture, this young woman is clothed modestly; coupled with the large bow in her hair, her conservative outfit signifies her youth. Story as well was known for the ornate purpose-built bases he created for his works, and this variegated marble base is no exception. The subject of this work may very well be Bessie Abbott, the American opera singer, who had an active international career in the early 20th century and who married Story in 1912. Her face and hair bear a strong resemblance to those in this bust.
Thomas Waldo Story, an American sculptor, was the son of William Wetmore Story, a sculptor (known for his Angel of Grief in the Protestant cemetery in Rome), art critic, poet and literary editor. Waldo Story's siblings also pursued artistic careers: Edith Marion (1844-1907), the Marchesa Peruzzi de' Medici, was a writer, and Julian Russell (1857-1919) was a painter. In 1883 Story married Ada Maud Broadwood, the daughter of an Englishman, T. Capel Broadwood.
Story was born in Rome and, although educated in England at Eton and Christ Church, he spent much of his life there. He attained a large following in Britain, and was particularly well known for his sculpture Fountain of Love (1894-6; Cliveden, Buckinghamshire). Mrs. Potter Palmer, a Sargent collector, was amongst his American patrons.
A photograph taken in Sargent’s studio in 1881 shows the artist with Story, his brother Julian, the painter Frank Miles and the sculptor Frederick Lawless. Sir Rennell Rodd recalls that particularly in 1882 and 1883 Story, along with his brother Julian, Frank Miles, Walter Sickert and Harper Pennington were constantly in Sargent’s studio. In December 1882 Sargent talked of setting up a kind of artist's society, the 'Chelsea Club', in Rossetti's old home, Tudor House on Cheyne Walk. The two Story brothers were to be included in the scheme. Around 1883 Sargent painted a portrait of Maud Story, Portrait of Mrs Waldo Story. The two men were in regular correspondence throughout the 1880s.
In January 1883, Oscar Wilde wrote to Story that Sargent spoke of your art with more enthusiasm than I ever heard him speak of any modern work. It appears that Sargent, who, according to F. Lawless, modelled statuettes, worked with Story in London. As President of the Royal Society of British Artists, JW proposed Story as a member in 1887. It was due to JW's influence that Story, along with Frederick MacMonnies and Augustus St. Gaudens, joined the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers.
Unknown collection (sitter of the portrait), acquired from the above
Collection of the Taffae Family, New York, since c. 1950s-60s, acquired from the above
By descent to Alfred Taffae