Thursday, July 16, 2015

Museum of Art

The neoclassical Philadelphia Museum of Art is a work of art in and of itself. This post offers an assortment of angles on the home of one of the country's great art collections.


Pediment - "Western Civilization"

Monday, July 13, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Washington Monument - 2

(see previous post)

The pedestal and equestrian Washington are in the center a platform reached from four sides by 13 steps (13 original states). At the four corners of the platform are fountains, representing four rivers - the Hudson, Delaware, Potomac, and Mississippi. The rivers are guarded by American animals and served by allegorical figures of Native Americans set amidst native flora and fauna.

To my mind, these fountains with their symbolic river figures and guardians are the most interesting and accessible aspects of the Washington Monument. A sampling ...

River Fountain




There is still much to be discovered, and photographed, in the monument, so I will probably return to it in the future.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Washington Monument - I

The city fathers of Philadelphia were embarrassed in 1824 when they were unable to show the visiting Marquis de Lafayette a single memorial to George Washington.

The Society of Cincinnati of Pennsylvania (an organization of descendants of officers who had served under Washington) began to raise money for a monument as early as 1810. Eventually the Society raised an estimated $250,000 (an enormous sum in the 19th century), and contracted with the well-known German sculptor, Rudolph Siemering. The monument was unveiled in 1897 at an entrance to Fairmont Park. With the completion of the Franklin Parkway, it was moved to its present location in Eakins Circle in 1926.

Washington Monument (Eakins Circle)
Washington Monument - Ericsson Fountain in foreground

Washington Monument - Museum of Art in background

At the top of the monument, General George Washington, in the uniform of the colonial army, is mounted on horseback, leading his countrymen and women in the battle for independence.

George Washington
George Washington (detail)

The equestrian Washington is on a high granite pedestal. The iconography of the pedestal is complex, and for modern viewers unaccustomed to getting their history lessons in a visual, sculpted medium, may be a confusing jumble that conveys very little. In what follows, I have just a sampling of the "message in the medium."

Two allegorical figures are on the front and back of the pedestal. On the front is an allegorical figure representing America. She has a cornucopia in one hand and a trident in the other. Chains have been cast off and she receives from her sons the trophies of her conquest. Below "America" is an eagle supporting the arms of the United States.


"America" - cornucopia (l) - olive branch of peace (r)

On the back side of the pedestal, America rouses her sons to a sense of their slavery.

More with the next post.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Washington Square - Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary Soldier

After the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, there was a long struggle to make the document a reality.

"Southeast Square" was one of William Penn's five designated "green" spaces. In colonial times it often served as a pauper's field. In 1825, it was renamed in honor of George Washington

Washington Square - fountain and monument
During the War for Independence, the British held Philadelphia. Soldiers of Washington's army who were prisoners of war often died of wounds and sickness. The British hauled their bodies to the square and buried them in unmarked graves.

"The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary Soldier" honors these soldiers.

Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary Soldier

The monument includes a  a tomb with remains of a soldier disinterred from the park, an eternal flame ...

Eternal Flame

... and a bronze cast of Houdon's statue of Washington.

George Washington (bronze cast from Houdon's statue)

George Washington (detail)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Anne d'Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden

Walk through the Anne d'Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden (Philadelphia Museum of Art) for a delightful display of contemporary sculpture.

These photos are not exhaustive, but give a feel for the variety of shapes and forms that grace the garden, provoke the mind, and fill the senses ...

"Giant Three-Way Plug, Scale A," Claes Oldenburg, 1970 (installed 2010) and "Lips," Franz West, 2012

Giant Three-Way Plug and Lips

"Giant Three-Way Plug, Scale A,"

Giant Three-Way Plug

"Bench and Table," Scott Burton, 2001

Bench and Table

Bench and Table

"Two Part Chair," Scott Burton, 1986 (fabricated 2002)

Two Part Chair

"Flukes," Gordon Gund, 2007


"Steel Woman," Thomas Shutte, 1999

Steel Woman