Sanderson Estate

model of formal garden

Photo #6218-13, edited, 1916, Olmsted Archives

Henry Sanderson and his wife hired architects Hunt and Hunt to design an Italian-style villa he named "La Selva." To complement his Long Island, NY, home, Sanderson brought in Olmsted Brothers to plan the surrounding landscape. The Olmsteds created formal Italian gardens, corresponding to the home's architecture, and more natural areas.

Mermaid and Merman

To the left is a model that Selmer-Larsen made for the Sandersons showing Olmsted Brothers' plans for their formal garden. From the loggia, the Sandersons could look out over a stretch of lawn (called the tapis vert) and past two columns to a fountain in a circular garden. A merman and a mermaid would decorate these columns (framed by the red box).

Selmer-Larsen began to design the merpeople after Olmsted Brothers completed their initial plans in 1916. He started by making a small, rough idea in clay.


Below you see the merpeople coming to life. The models show how Selmer-Larsen gradually refined details from the small model on the left to the final version on the right. The final mermaid and merman have clearly defined features. Selmer-Larsen skillfully captured the strength of the merman, the graceful pose of the mermaid, and the movement of her hair. After what appears to have been a two-year process, the sculptures were ready to be cast.

Merman models

Left: Photo #6218-19, 1916; Middle: Photo #6218-96; Right: Photo #6218-172, 1918, Olmsted Archives

Mermaid models

Left: Photo #6218-20, 1916; Middle: Photo #6218-91; Right: Photo #6218-176, 1918, Olmsted Archives

Merpeople on columns

Job #06218, cropped, Olmsted Archives

merpeople on columns

Job #06218, Olmsted Archives

After much of the garden was constructed, the merpeople were placed on their columns, where they could now flirt back and forth with one another. Several years later, when this photo was taken, wisteria had wound its way up the columns, adding a slightly wild effect to the scene.

Last updated: September 13, 2015

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