Lions, books, and philanthropy

One of the most significant national treasures, the New York Public Library, was not created by the government but was a product of philanthropy. Hard to imagine, but there was a time when New York City did not have a library. By the second part of the 19th century, New York was emerging as one…

Prometheus – giving mortals “a Means to Mighty Ends”

The Aeschylus quote, carved in the granite wall behind the massive gilded statue of Prometheus in the heart of the Rockefeller Center, says: “Prometheus, Teacher in Every Art, Brought the Fire That Hath Proved to Mortals a Means to Mighty Ends.”  But who was Prometheus? And why is he the focal point of the Rockefeller…

Rockefeller Center Atlas or how to locate the North Star in New York City

Standing on Fifth Avenue, right across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is not a Christian deity, but a mythological titan named Atlas. A part of the overall artistic plan for the Rockefeller Center with sculpture and artworks integrated into its design, the seven tons Atlas is the largest and one of the most prominent. According to…

The Four Continents – a Close up

The Four Continents—four statues adorning the facade of the former United States Custom House—are allegorical representations of the four continents: Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. Created by Daniel Chester French, they represent the vision of Custom House architect Cass Gilbert, who chose the theme to represent the building’s main function—international commerce. Flanking the main entrance are…

Union Square Drinking Fountain

A female personification of Charity—a woman with two children holding a water pitcher—is not just a statue . . . it used to be a drinking fountain. One of the oldest in the NYC park system, the Union Square Drinking Fountain is also called James Fountain, reflecting the name of its donor, philanthropist Daniel Willis…

Chester Arthur: the statue that kept losing its glasses

Sculptor: George Edwin BissellArchitect: James Brown LordDedicated: 1899 When serving as the 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur exceeded all expectations. This was due in large part to the fact that nobody expected that much . . . One of the least-remembered presidents, he was known during his lifetime to be an exceptional…

William H. Seward Monument—it’s all about proportion

William H. Seward was a towering figure in 19th-century politics. Serving at different times as a senator, New York governor, and secretary of state (under Abraham Lincoln), he is credited with blocking the European recognition of the Confederacy as well as negotiating the anti-slave trade treaty with Great Britain, among other notable achievements. He was…

Charging Bull – One Giant Christmas Present

The Charging Bull, representing a rising market, is one of the most easily recognizable symbols of Wall Street. The Charging Bull was created by sculptor Arturo Di Modica in his Soho studio on Crosby Street. Conceived by the sculptor as an antidote for the sour mood caused by the 1987 stock market crash known as…

Statue of Liberty – an American Colossus

The iconic statue was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. Location: Liberty Island (Bedloe Island) Built: 1884 Dedicated: 1886 Sculptor: Frederic Auguste Bartholdi Engineer: Gustave Eiffel Pedestal: Richard Morris Hunt Lady Liberty was christened “Liberty Enlightening the World” and gifted to the people of the United States…

Audrey Munson in New York

“POMONA” of the Pulitzer Fountain   Location: Grand Army Plaza, 5th Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets Sculptor: Karl Bitter/Isidore Konti Built: 1916 The exquisite female figure atop the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel is an allegorical depiction of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Symbolizing bounty, she holds a basket of fruit as the…

Pomona of the Pulitzer Fountain

Architect: Thomas Hastings;  Sculpture: Karl Bitter, Isidore Conti Date: 1916 Location: Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets. The exquisite female figure atop the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel is an allegorical depiction of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Symbolizing bounty, she holds a basket of fruit as…

Audrey Munson – American Venus

  There are many rags to riches stories in the American experience, as well as the stories of falling from grace and losing fortunes. But out of all of them – hers was the most bizarre. Her name was Audrey Munson. The name was forgotten, but her likeness, cast in granite, bronze, and marble, is…