Snail's Postcard Post


 Born November 12, 1840 (d. 1917), today would be Auguste Rodin’s birthday. In honor of the father of modern sculpture, admired for his anatomically and characteristically realistic rendering of the body, this Postcard Post is devoted to statuary. 

Italian sculptor Carlo Rastrelli began designing this bronze monument before Peter the Great’s death in 1725. Rastrelli cast it between 1745 and ’47, then it sat in a warehouse until 1800. The pedestal is made of green, red and white Karelian marble with a bronze relief on either side–one depicting the Battle of Poltava (Peter the Great’s victory over Sweden in 1709), the other the Battle of Hangö (“Gangut” in Russian. Another Russian victory over Sweden, 1714). The statue was removed from its pedestal and stashed away so the Germans would not destroy it throughout the Siege of Leningrad (1941-44).

Satellites, hammers and sickles, and proud common-folk–it doesn’t get any better than that… 1985 postmark, still the USSR, which is why the postcard’s caption and Grandma Snail’s friend who sent it say ‘Leningrad.’ The city did not become Saint Petersburg again until 1991.

Hope that’ll tide you over until the end of the month when I’ll break out my load of Russian postcards!

Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904–a contemporary of his countryman Rodin), a gift from the people of France. Bartholdi portrayed the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas, with a torch–a beacon to immigrants–and a tabula ansanta (book of the law) that says July 4, 1776, the date of the United State’s independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The copper statue is 151’1″, and the entire monument–ground to torch–is 305’1″.   

Funnily, this massive sculpture was built in France and shipped to the U.S. piece by piece as the parts were completed. The parts went on display in various places–the torch-bearing arm at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 and at Madison Square Garden–to raise money for the rest to be built. 

Liberty was fully assembled on her pedestal at last in 1886. The morning of the dedication ceremony, presided over by President Grover Cleveland, a parade of  bands from all over the country marched from Madison Square down Fifth Avenue and Broadway to Battery Park and out to the harbor. As the parade passed the New York Stock Exchange, traders threw ticker tape out the window in celebration. It was the city’s first ticker-tape parade! 

(For more New York City postcards, check out this post.)

Now, this statue does not exactly speak well for the Liberal city of Austin, but it does represent a facet of state history of which many Texans are proud. This is a monument at the Capitol Building commemorating Terry’s Texas Rangers. It’s a funny story: Formally called the 8th Texas Cavalry (1861-1865), 1,000 volunteers formed ten companies under wealthy sugar planter Colonel Benjamin Franklin Terry (an ironic name considering his political stance), joining in the Civil War in the name of the Confederacy. Terry was killed in their first skirmish. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lubbock, in a hospital with typhoid, was promoted to Colonel. He died the next day. Lubbock, Texas was named in his honor. So John Austin Wharton got the job, eventually rising all the way to Major General. Like Lubbock, he got a Texas city and county named after him, Wharton.

The bronze statue, dedicated “Terry’s Texas Rangers,” was erected in 1907. I don’t know if the horseman is Terry or just a typical Ranger. The monument was organized by surviving Rangers and created by Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini (1870-1957). Coppini moved to the United States as a young man, becoming an American citizen and creating many all-American memorials. He moved around a lot for commissioned projects, but lived in Texas most, particularly San Antonio. He is best known for his (now controversial) Texas hero works, including the Alamo Cenotaph.          

The Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) in Milan was originally built in the 14th century, but it was remodeled in the late 19th when the city government wished for it to honor King Victor Emmanuel II (r. 1861-1878). Formerly the king of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II was a big deal because he became the first king of a united Italy–the many kingdoms of The Boot had not shared a ruler since Roman times.  

With the renovation of the piazza (beginning in 1860) in the King’s honor, it was only natural that a monument to Victor Emmanuel II stand at the center. So as the final touch before the piazza was complete, sculptor Ercole Rosa (1846-1893) created this statue of the King at the bloody Battle of Solferino (1859. Witnessed by Jean Henri-Dunant who got the ball rolling to draft the Geneva Convention and the neutral Red Cross). On the pedestal is a relief portraying the Piedmont-French army entering Milan, another part of the Second Italian War of Independence. 


The Archdiocese cathedral of Venice, Basilica di San Marco was consecrated in 1071. These Greek horses, however, date back to classical antiquity and have seen many momentous events. Trotting around the Hippodrome of Constantinople, they were sent to Venice in 1204 when Constantinople was sacked in the fourth crusade. Napoleon then took them to Paris in 1797. Returning from France in 1815, they had their coats brushed, hooves scraped and a lot of other restoration before being rewarded their carrots and stationed before St. Mark’s again. In the 1990′s, they went into retirement, now grazing in the museum of St. Mark’s Basilica, while two new horses stand guard out front.


Silly Mama Snail…

(For more Italian postcards check out this post.)

Hermes with Pegasus at the Place de la Concorde, Paris


Gargoyles, like this one at Notre Dame, are architectural features as much as they are imaginative statues–they’re drainage outlets! I’ve read that the word “gargoyle” comes from the Greek gargarizein meaning “to wash the throat”–to gargle! That’s why they’re always hanging out on rooftops–they were sculpted at the ends of spouts for rain runoff. This way, just like more modern buildings today, the water doesn’t pour down the sides of cathedrals and rot the walls. 

(For more Paris postcards, check out this post.)

Just visible in this postcard is something of a sculpture garden. On the roof of La Pedrera (also called Casa Milá, 1906-1912, architect Antoni Gaudí…of course) are groupings of surreal swirly sculptures approximately twice human height. They seemed to have helmeted heads and shielded faces that, when I visited, reminded me of Darth Vader. Much like the previous gargoyles of Notre Dame, the “Darth Vaders” are artful ventilation towers! And the larger flourishes that look like soft serve ice cream are chimneys.

(For more postcards from Spain, see this post.)

Yes, that Herb Alpert. Since the Tijuana Brass and all that jazz (I couldn’t resist the pun), he’s enjoyed a second career in art, especially garnering attention for these totems. In interviews he has said that creating them in fact gives him the same feeling as jazz. He has created them in a wide range of sizes. The ones in the postcard look to be shorter than the viewer, but others are quite tall. I know he started out working with clay, which these look like, or perhaps they’re wood as would relate to the totem poles of the Pacific Northwest, but all Alpert’s totems I’ve read about are made of bronze with different patinas. I’ve also read that as well as the totem poles of the Pacific Northwest, he was inspired by “scholars’ rocks,” the chunky hole-filled boulders eaten away by their time in rivers that the Chinese literati valued as the rivers’ own sculptures. 

Often representing the first man and woman of Central-Eastern Polynesian mythology, tiki frequently mark the boundaries of sacred sites and other important places.

In the foreground of the famous El Castillo is a Chac Mool. Though Chichen-Itza was the capitol of the Mayan empire, the Chac Mool is a human stone figure from the Toltec tradition.

Ancient Egyptian bronze artifact at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Denmark. I can not find anything else about it!

Jeff Koons, Puppy, 1992. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. 

This entry was published on November 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm. It’s filed under Art, Historical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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