From Angels to A Rhino – My Favourite Statues
By no means do I think of myself as an art aficionado, nor do I have a profuse knowledge of art, artists or their meanings or symbolism. With that said I can see the beauty in life whether its nature’s sunset, the majestic breach of a humpback whale or the individual beauty in statues. I’ve seen many statues on my travels through the USA, the UK and Europe and around my hometown and other local cities and have come up with my ten favourite statues – from angels to a rhino.
One of my favourite cities I’ve visited is Budapest, Hungary and whenever I think of it, or the time I spent there, one image always comes to mind. That image is of Hero’s Square, with all its striking and powerful symbolism and statues, but it is as a whole that I see it. Hero’s Square consists of a large pillar with a statue atop and below is surrounded by more, then on either side are two matching colonnades containing more statues within and four on each top end. The central structure, called the Millennium Memorial because it was completed for the countries 1000 anniversary, has statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century around its base. Atop is a statue of the archangel Gabriel, in his right hand he holds the Holy Crown of St. Stephen (the first King of Hungary) and in his left he holds a two barred apostolic cross (a symbol awarded to St. Stephen by the Pope). The two matching colonnades behind the central memorial each have seven statues representing great figures of Hungarian history. Atop each corner of the colonnades are four more statues, one symbolizing war, one peace, another labour and wealth and the last knowledge and glory.
Another of my favourites that always brings a smile to my face is the statue of Eros center stage in London’s Piccadilly Circus. Erected in 1892 by sculptor Alfred Gilbert, the Eros statue became the worlds first statue to be cast in aluminum. It is also known as the Shaftesbury Monument because it was a memorial to the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury.
From one noble man to another, my next statue is the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Built to honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, it was built in 1920 and sculpted by Daniel Chester French. The 19 foot tall statue has many urban legends, from the face of Robert E. Lee hidden behind Lincoln’s head to his hands signing his initials A L. But to me this statue of Abraham Lincoln symbolizes forward thinking, equality, unity and freedom.
While strolling along Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain in 2007 I was lucky enough to stumble upon a showcase of Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj’s fantastic work. One of my favourite pieces was called Ikaria, otherwise known as the winged, headless body. This stunning bronze statue reminded me of my all time favourite statue (keep reading to find out!). The statue was meant to be the feminization of the myth of Icarus and to me symbolized discovering true and inner self, with its snippets of hidden pieces found throughout the body.
From one winged statue to another, this one avec head. One of my favourite statues in Rome, Italy is that of the Archangel Michael that stands atop Hadrian’s mausoleum. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared with a sword over the mausoleum during a devastating plague in answer to Pope St. Gregory’s prayers to cease the plague. When the plague ended the Pope called the mausoleum “Castel Sant’ Angelo” (Castle of the Holy Angel) – to what it is known today as. I love the confident, not menacing look of the archangel with his sword pointing down as if to fight off evil with a presence of mind.
One closer to home and a relatively new one would be “Rising”, located in downtown Toronto, Canada. “Rising” is a $5 million sculpture by Chinese artist Zhang Huan and stands in front of the luxury Shangri-La Hotel. This 22 ton, stainless steel piece showcases flocks of birds perched or flying over a giant tree root, the root is shaped like an animal, appearing as a Chinese dragon from certain views, and it all stands over a reflecting pool. I love the simplicity and movement, it’s graceful yet striking.
A recent addition to my favourites is the ‘Aspire’ statue by Greg Wyatt that stands in front of Central Piedmont Community College campus’ Overcash Academic and Performing Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This stunning, massive, bronze angel reaching to the sky made me think of reaching for the stars and living life to its fullest by ‘aspiring’ to a creative and fulfilling life.
Some of my favourite statues could travel by air with wings or feathers, but my next travels by water. Set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland sits the Sun Voyager. Created by Jon Gunnar Arnason and unveiled in the summer of 1990, the Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun and looks like the silver bones of a Viking ship. To me it conjures up promises of undiscovered places and tugs at my travelers heart-strings.
I know you’re probably itching to know – ‘where’s this rhino?’ Well, here it is. As the animal lover I am I couldn’t have a list of favourite statues from my travels without one of an animal. In the heart of Paris, outside the Musee d’Orsay stands a noble and confident creature – the rhino. The rhino statue is by Henri Alfred Jacquemart in 1878 and its massive presence warms my conservationist heart with hopes for this endangered beauty.
The statues I’ve listed above are in no particular order of love, as all hold a special memory, passion or inspiration to me. But I’ve saved my number one. I had never heard no seen it before my first visit to Paris in 2005, but it has maintained its place at the top ever since I laid eyes on it, and I even have a small replica of it on my desk at home. It is “the Winged Victory of Samothrace”. I remember the first time I entered the Louvre and started up the grand staircase only to be stopped dead in my tracks by its majestic beauty – to me it encompasses every magical inspiration I’ve ever desired and it still surprises me when I think of how much this statue affects me. Also known as ‘Nike of Samothrace”, it is a second century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory) and once stood on the prow of a ship. The statue itself is 9 feet tall and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. I can totally understand why.
One thing you may notice is the theme of winged beings, of travel and an overall inspiration to do your best – for your people, for your mind and for your heart. To me that’s what I love about art in general as well as these particular statues; I love that we take what can, what we need and what we want from art in all its forms. And so I believe we should all go out and create our own art, whether through sculpting, painting, writing or merely inspiration!
I would love to hear what your favourite statue is in the comment section below!