Community

Lost and Found: Dana Hall welcomes back the Amor Caritas statue

A Dana Hall artifact had been returned to the school after decades of it being lost. 

The “Amor Caritas” statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens belonged to the Dana Hall School as far back as 1907 and was acquired by Helen Temple Cooke, Principal and co-owner of the School at the time.

Dana Hall School was always aware of the statue’s existence due to photographs that showed it in the Dana Hall classroom building, its original home. The archives librarians always wondered where it had ended up, but despite searching the school it was never found.

This past summer, now-retired Assistant Dean of Students Kathy Hamel had an interaction with a “nice elderly gentleman” who informed her he had found something that belonged to the school while cleaning out his house. 

The man told her he used to be a dorm parent in Johnston A and Grey Lodge, and that the artifact had been accidentally packed up by movers when he and his family left Dana Hall. He claimed it had just been discovered in the basement of his home “down the street” in Wellesley. 

He and his son brought the statue to the Shipley Center and chose to remain unidentified but assured Ms. Hamel that the artifact belonged to Dana Hall. Head of School Katherine Bradley was “thrilled” when she was informed that the statue was being returned.

Dana Hall School Archivist Dorothy DeSimone said that the bronze statue was returned “quite dusty and cobwebby, with some old spider egg casings,” and “the wooden tabernacle frame surrounding the bronze was slightly loose on top, but tightly attached with rusted screws and bolt on the bottom.”

The Dana Hall archives had previously read and believed that the reductions like the one the school owned were cast by the artist after the creation of the “heroic-sized” Amor Caritas Statue exhibited in Paris in 1900 (now in the Louvre). However, the dates on our piece and others imply they were cast 2 years earlier.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 30 reductions were made and that is where the confusion came into play. The list of institutions that own (or have owned) an AC reduction is “long and impressive” according to Ms. DiSimone.

During its time away from Dana Hall it was thought that this particular version of the statue, the one owned by Helen Temple Cooke, had likely been moved to the Chestnut Hill campus of Pine Manor Junior College when they left Wellesley in 1964, but that was not the case. The truth was that the “Dane Estate” purchased by Pine Manor for its new campus owned its own status of Amor Caritas. That one was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in New York in December 2009.

Likely, we will never know where Miss Cooke acquired the AC. She was known to have a passion for art and it may have been given to her or sold to her by a third party. 

Ms. Bradley, Ms. DiSimone, and the Dana Hall community are very glad this artwork has returned to Dana Hall and look forward to the plan of everyone being able to see it restored and on display in the new Classroom Building.

Comments are closed.