a gilt bas–relief by Saint-Gaudens, “Amor
Caritas” (facing page), stands in an open
courtyard. Dissatisfied with the original “Shaw
Memorial,” which stands across from the
Massachusetts State House in Boston,
Saint-Gaudens created this version at Aspet.
death in 1907, a year after White’s lurid murder
by Harry Thaw, the crazed millionaire husband
of the architect’s former mistress, Evelyn
Nesbit. The two deaths were the beginning
of the end for the American Renaissance.
The era’s self-confident Beaux-Arts sculpture
and architecture celebrated America as, like
ancient Greece, a country of heroes defending democratic ideals. The triumph of
non-representational modern art would
eventually put much of Saint-Gaudens’s work
on the wrong side of contemporary sensibilities, making it difficult to view without irony.
Aspet was maintained by a private society
until it came into the sheltering arms of the
National Park Service in the 1960s. According
to site gardener James Haaf, noted garden
designer Ellen Biddle Shipman simplified the
extensive grounds in the 1940s. Nonetheless,
the old-fashioned flowers, some of them original, remain. They help make it possible to
pretend it is still the summer of the American
Renaissance and that Teddy Roosevelt, Henry
James, Maxfield Parrish, Charles Platt, or the
Nichols family of Beacon Hill will be arriving
soon for one of Aspet’s art exhibits or summer
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