The tragic tale of Audrey Munson, the most beautiful woman in the world

This is such a fascinating story — how Audrey Munson, a young girl from Rochester, became the muse for dozens of famous artists and sculptors around the turn of the century, her face and body immortalized in statues and busts all around New York. And then, just as suddenly, she was out of fashion, fell on hard times and was eventually committed to a mental institution.

She modeled for the greatest sculptors and painters in New York, including Alexander Stirling Calder, Daniel Chester French, and Karl Bitter. She made thirty-­five dollars a week and lived simply, in a small one-bedroom apartment that she shared with her mother. The art that she posed for, however, was a gateway into the upper echelon of society. When Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands commissioned Bitter to create a Venus de Milo statue “with arms,” Audrey’s arms served as the inspiration. The Rockefeller

Source: Descending Night – Believer Magazine

2 Replies to “The tragic tale of Audrey Munson, the most beautiful woman in the world”

  1. Great recognition of her Mathew. I have been trying to capture all of the sculptures in NYC and other cities where Audrey Munson is the subject. I am fascinated by her story and her struggle.
    She was quite a character too. In her later life, while still confined to the Institution, she would drive the Nurses crazy by escaping and ducking into a bar across the street where she told stories about her youth, as the most celebrated figure model in the US. She was dubbed by some as “America’s First Supermodel”. Her story needs to be told. Fascinating, amazing, heartbreaking and inspiring. Thank you Mathew!

    1. Thanks Tim — I hadn’t heard of Audrey until I came across that piece linked to in someone’s newsletter. It is such a fascinating and tragic story. It seems particularly sad that she inspired all these famous artists to create these works of art and architecture that have become such a crucial part of what New York city is, and yet she got virtually nothing out of it. I would love to see all the different statues and art works she inspired — if you get a collection of images together I would very much like to see them.

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