The Spirit of Life

To the memory of SPENCER TRASK.
His one object in life was to do right
and serve his fellow-men.
He gave himself abundantly to hasten the
coming of a new and better day,
which. with prophetic vision, he
foretold for Saratoga Springs.

The first sentence of the inscription was from a letter written by Justice Charles Evans Hughs
 of the United States Supreme Court while Governor of the State of New York.

The Spirit of Life

In 1913, Daniel Chester French was commissioned to make a monument in memory of Spencer Trask, a fountain that was to be situated in Saratoga Springs, New York. This monument came to be known as the Spirit of Life. Completed in 1915, the first design for the monument was a model of an angel with outstretched arms and a downturned head. It was rejected by Trask's widow who preferred a more active pose. French kept his first model and subsequently made two bronzes of it; he titled the "Spirit of the Waters." One is at Chesterwood, French's summer home and studio (it had originally been at a Newport, Rhode Island, home) and the other is at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a gift of Grenville. L. Winthrop.
"Spirit of the Waters" is a stunningly sculpture. The downcast gaze of the angel, her immense, thick, heavy wings (see the back view below) and the long, graceful, delicate arms, hands and fingers make for a memorable image. It can be found on the second floor of the Fogg Art Museum. It is difficult to photograph it in natural, low light, but these photos will give an idea of the gracefulness and poetry of "Spirit of the Waters."

The statue stands in the heart of Congress Park in Saratoga, New York, on a shallow niche of white marble with a balustraded terrace above and an oblong lagoon, set in marble and surrounded with verdant shrubbery, green lawns, and a wealth of flowers below. The statue is a figure of a winged woman, hands poised high above her head. The figure represents Hygieia, the giver of health, who usually appeared in Greek and Roman art accompanying her father, Asklepios, the god of medicine. She is often shown offering nourishment to a serpent entwined on the staff Asklepios carries. In French's conception, Hygieia holds a shallow bowl aloft and in the other hand clasps a pine bough, a reference to the towering pines on the grounds of the Trasks' estate. The goddess is poised lightly on a rock, and a stream of water pours from its cleft. The pedestal is a sculptured reproduction of the tufaceous deposits seen about the orifice of many of Saratoga's famous springs. Inscription on the statue reads "To do good and serve my fellow man." Saratoga's Tribute to Spencer Trask was presented on June 26, 1915.

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Most recent revision: by RWT on Friday, June 01, 2012

9-15-1995 by R.W. Trask

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