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Standing Owl, from New York Herald Building, NYC

American Art

On View: Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor

The bronze owls perched in the brick niche above were originally among a group of twenty-two owls that adorned the Herald Building, home to the New York Herald newspaper from 1893 to 1921. The building was designed by Stanford White (of the leading firm McKim, Mead & White, architects of this Museum) on commission from the newspaper's flamboyant publisher, James Gordon Bennett, Jr.

Bennett also conceived the array of bronze roof sculptures, installed in 1895. The central figure group, commissioned in Paris from the French sculptor Antonin Jean Paul Carles (1851–1919), featured the Roman war goddess Minerva presiding over two hammer-wielding blacksmiths, who flank a large bell. The stately owls that edged the rest of the roofline were electrified so that their glass eyes glowed and blinked in time with the hammered toning of the hours. Bennett had a penchant for owls—the official emblem of the Herald—and collected both live and sculpted ones. Neither the designer nor the foundry responsible for these owls has yet been identified.

In 1939 (by which time the demolition of the Herald Building was nearly complete) Minerva, the bell-ringer group, and two of the four winged owls were installed in Herald Square as the James Gordon Bennett Memorial.

MEDIUM Copper alloy (bronze), glass, electrical wiring
DATES ca. 1893-1895
DIMENSIONS 40 x 24 x 32 in. (101.6 x 61 x 81.3 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
CREDIT LINE Lent by New York University
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CAPTION Standing Owl, from New York Herald Building, NYC, ca. 1893-1895. Copper alloy (bronze), glass, electrical wiring, 40 x 24 x 32 in. (101.6 x 61 x 81.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Lent by New York University, L71.24.2. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, L71.24.2_installation_view1_Crystal_Lopez_photo.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION One of two of owl sculptures (L71.24.1-.2). Pairs of light fixtures inside each head behind pierced eyes with green glass insets; one owl has glass eyes missing. Identified as horned owls. Source: Herald Building, Herald Square, New York, designed by Stanford White, erected 1893, demolished 1921. Sculptures commissioned by Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918), and installed 1895. Originally there were 22 owls adorning the roofline of the Venetian palazzo style hall. They were part of the "Minerva and the Bell Ringers" clock--when the bell rang at every hour, the owls' eyes would blink. After the building was demolished, the clock and owls were given to New York University. The clock was loaned to the city in 1939, and is now installed at Herald Square, flanked by two owls; by the 1960s the remainder of the owls had been given as permanent loans to various institutions such as the Park Ridge, NJ, Board of Education, the Muscular Distrophy Associations of America, and the Paris office of the International Herald-Tribune. (In the bequest of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the University cannot give the owls away.)
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