Memorialized

“America’s first supermodel”: The tragic life of the most famous American statue model

The Maine Monument in Central Park, New York. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Audrey Munson was America’s first supermodel. Considered by Gilded Age sculptors to be “the world’s most perfectly formed woman,” Munson is the model used for dozens of America’s most famous monuments, including statues on public buildings, bridges, fountains, and mansions across the country. But Munson, who died in 1996 at the age of 104, is virtually unknown today, though Americans pass by her image daily in some of the country’s most well-traveled places. One writer is trying to change that.

Munson, who was “discovered” at the age of 17 by a photographer while she was window shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York City, posed for more than 200 sculptors. Statues of her appear atop New York’s Municipal Building (the second largest female statue in the city after the Statue of Liberty), in Columbus Circle and in two memorials on the city’s Upper West Side, as well as in Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Madison, Wisconsin.

But after Munson took on a nude movie role in 1915, becoming America’s first naked movie star, and then was suspected of being involved in a high-profile love triangle murder case, she suffered a psychological collapse, moved upstate with her mother, and became a recluse. After attempting suicide, she was institutionalized, where she remained for 65 years until her death. Now, author James Bone, who is releasing a book on Munson called The Curse of Beauty: The Scandalous and Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel, is hoping that Munson will get her own memorial.

Read the full story at CNN.

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