Collections: American Art: Pediment for the Brooklyn Museum

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    Pediment for the Brooklyn Museum

    • Designer: Daniel Chester French, American, 1850-1931
    • Artist: Adolph Alexander Weinman, American, born Germany, 1870-1952
    • Medium: Indiana limestone
    • Dates: 1914
    • Collections:American Art
    • Museum Location: This item is on view in Eastern Parkway Façade
    • Accession Number: 10.232
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Daniel Chester French (American, 1850-1931). Pediment for the Brooklyn Museum, 1914. Indiana limestone Brooklyn Museum, 10.232. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: overall, Brooklyn Museum: exterior. View of the Central section from the entrance pathway, 1987. Pediment., S06_BEEi118_cropped_10.232.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 1987
    • Catalogue Description: To the viewer's left, three figures represent Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. On the viewer's right stand Geology, Astronomy, and Biology, the three basic sciences of the earth, sky, and nature. A sphinx on the extreme right symbolizes Knowledge. A peacock at the left is, according to D.C. French, an "emblem of beauty in the appearance of things," as associated with art.
    • Record Completeness: Good (70%)
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    Recent Comments
    07:23 03/21/2010
    Who are the two central figures in the pediment? The winged female and the magesterial male? And the bust atop the pediment -- is that Athena/Diana?
    By Antonia
    15:37 03/22/2010
    Hi, great question!

    When the Museum trustees commissioned the pediment, they stipulated that the theme would be the Union of Science and Art. The artist, Daniel Chester French, and his assistant, Adolph Weinman, were free to work out how they wanted to depict this theme.

    At the turn of the century, when this building was erected, abstract ideas such as Science and Art were often depicted as male or female figures, known as allegories, who sometimes held certain objects in their hands that explained who they were (called attributes).

    In the pediment we see the two seated figures of Science and Art flanking the shield of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (as the Museum was named back then).

    The figures to the viewer's left (the arts) are Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture; the figures to the right (the sciences) are Geology, Astronomy, and Biology. In the corners are a sphinx, symbolizing Knowledge, and a peacock, symbolizing beauty in appearance.

    We can identify the pediment figures through information in letters written by the artist. However, I have not yet found information identifying the person in the bust--it looks like a woman with a helmet, so it could be Athena--but heads such as this one were sometimes purely decorative in nature, and were not always meant to portray a specific individual.

    Margaret Stenz, Curatorial Associate, American Art
    16:51 03/22/2010
    Dear Margaret,
    Thank you for your prompt and erudite response.
    Sincerely,
    Antonia
    By Antonia



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