Who is this supposed to be and why are they cloaked?
This is a bust from a such larger sculpture of a seated figure by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The entire statue is part of a memorial to the wife of historian Henry Adams.
Some scholars have linked the robe-covered head to the Japanese depictions of the Buddhist figure Kannon, who is often shown in such a way. Kannon represents the concept of compassion.
Was she widely known as a compassionate person? Or was that smothering adapted at the time for women?
Her husband was interested in Buddhism and asked that Saint-Gaudens look towards Buddhist imagery when making the memorial, specifically to the idea of Kannon.