Thomas Ridgeway Gould was a Boston dry-goods merchant who was liberated from his quotidian profession by financial failure. He studied modeling in the studio of the French-trained portraitist Seth Wells Cheney (1810–1856) as early as 1851, working there with sculptor William Wetmore Story (1819–1895). In 1864 he showed seven sculptures in three exhibitions at the Boston Atheneum, including portrait works depicting Ralph Waldo Emerson and Governor John Andrew, ideal works entitled Good and Evil, and religious subjects including Christ and Satan. Encouraged by the positive reception to his work in Boston, and reacting to business reversals during the Civil War, he determined to pursue his erstwhile avocation in Florence, Italy, moving there with his family in 1868. One the youngest of the American sculptors in Florence, Gould was apparently a popular and well-respected addition to the American expatriate community, and was especially known for his cultured and gentlemanly demeanor.
Not trained in any formal academy in either the United States or Europe, Gould produced sculpture essentially in the Neo-Classical vein but infused with his own, more modern sensibility. Though his works were popular with collectors, they were frequently criticized for failing to hew strictly to the classical ideal. Critics with more cosmopolitan outlooks, like the well-traveled Sadakichi Hartmann, found Gould’s work refreshingly modern in comparison to the stalwart classicism of his peers. “By far more sympathetic to modern taste was the decorative work of T. R. Gould, of Boston,” wrote Hartmann. “He handled drapery with mastery” (Hartmann, A History of American Art, vol. II [Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1902], p. 29).