Once a plan for a piece was agreed to by all parties, Saint-Gaudens made a small clay sketch of it. This was the most experimental and fluid stage of his work. Often Saint-Gaudens made several sketches for a single commission, as can be seen in his clay versions of the relief portrait of the Shiff children. A gesture -- for example the tilt of a head or the angle of a wrist -- could involve him in successive tries for the expression that would fit his idea of tone or character. Saint-Gaudens is known to have made thirty-six clay "sketches" for a single memorial.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Children of Jacob H. Schiff, 1885, bronze relief, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire