Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned by author Henry Brooks Adams (great grandson of John Adams and grandson of John Quincy Adams) in 1886 to create a memorial for his wife’s grave in Washington, D. C.’s Rock Creek Cemetery. Marion, a D. C. socialite and accomplished photographer, had committed suicide a year earlier. Adams did not want a likeness of his wife, but instead asked Saint-Gaudens to create a spiritual figure that encompassed Buddhist philosophy and was similar to characters from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Both male and female models were used to create the androgynous figure.
Saint-Gaudens finished the project in 1891 and called it The Mystery of the Hereafter. Adams referred to it as The Peace of God. The public and press nicknamed it Grief, a name Adams did not like.