Brooklyn Museum

Sculptures on the Exterior

A note on the photos: Taking photos of sculptures that are high on a facade is a tricky business. If the sculptures are in shade, it's nearly impossible. The photos below were taken when only the east facade was well lit. Patience: one of these days, I'll get back and shoot the north and west side in better light. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, these are the only close-ups available on the web, which makes them (in the most precise mathematical sense) better than nothing.

Brooklyn Museum facade

Photo courtesy Wikipedia (because the rest of today's pics were taken with snow making a mess of things at street level)

Guarding the entrance: Manhattan and Brooklyn

According Adeline Adams' Daniel Chester French, Sculptor (1932), "At a very real sacrifice of time, strength, and personal profit, Mr. French, after much solicitation, consented to assume responsibility and to make contracts for all the sculpture on the façade of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Its triumphant conclusion was a proof of executive ability imaginatively and harmoniously employed."

Brooklyn (on the left side of the main entrance) and Manhattan (on the right) are gorgeous allegorical works by Daniel Chester French, who also sculpted the Four Continents at the Customs House, Bowling Green, and the Hunt Memorial. Originally they were at the Brooklyn end of the Manhattan Bridge; they were moved to the Brooklyn Museum after exhaust from automobiles became too destructive.

Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn

Above: Brooklyn, a kindly stay-at-home type with a child, and a church behind her.

Brooklyn Museum Manhattan

Above: Manhattan, a global trader (the ship behind her) and proud of it (peacock).

Pediment

These figures are the work of Daniel Chester French and Adolph Weinman (see Rea and other sculptures in Manhattan).

Brooklyn Museum pediment whole

Above: the whole pediment

Brooklyn Museum pediment center figures

Above: The central figures represent Art and Science.

Brooklyn Museum pediment arts

Above: On our left, reading from left to right, are a peacock (symbolizing beauty), Painting (with a canvas), Architecture (wearing an Egyptian headdress: credit for the pyramids?), and Sculpture (with a mallet).

Brooklyn Museum pediment sciences

Above: On our right are Astronomy (celestial maps?), Geology (not sure of the attribute), and Biology (holding a skull). At the far right is a sphinx, symbolizing knowledge.

Sculptures on the attic storey facade

The figures on the attic story do not correspond to the names inscribed on the level below them. In fact, the figures don't always represent the figures that are named below. A 1910 publication explaining the sculpture program noted that:

"The statues are not portraits … Neither do they bear a direct relation to the names below them. Instead they symbolize those factors that made certain periods in the world’s history notable as stages in the development of civilization."

The 1910 publication was quoted in a letter to the editor of the New York Sun on 6/21/2005, signed by Kevin Stayton as Chief Curator of the Brooklyn Musem.

Sculptures on the east facade

To help you keep these figures straight as you peer up at them, I'm citing the inscriptions that appear below and between them. Remember that the inscriptions don't necessarily correspond to the figures near them.

[Inscriptions: RAMSES, HAMMURABI, NEBUCHADNEZZAR, ZOROASTER, CYRUS, MANU]

Brooklyn Museum Zoroaster

Above: Zoroaster, representing Persian Philosophy, by Edmund T. Quinn (who also did Edwin Booth as Hamlet and Victor Herbert in Central Park.

[Inscription: BUDDHA]

Brooklyn Museum Sankara

Above: Sankara, representing Indian Philosophy, by Edward Clark Potter, best known for the lions in front of New York Public Library

Brooklyn Museum Kalidasa

Above: Kalidasa, representing Indian Literature, by Attilio Piccirilli, who did the figures on the Maine Monument and the Firemen's Memorial. He also belonged to a notable family of stonecutters who often executed work for Daniel Chester French and others.

[Inscription: KALIDASA]

Brooklyn Museum Manu

Above: Manu, representing Indian Law, also by Attilio Piccirilli (see Kalidasa)

Brooklyn Museum Buddha

Above: Buddha (holding the dharma wheel), representing Indian Religion, by Edward Clark Potter. See Sankara above.

Sculptures on the north facade, east (left) of the pediment

To help you keep these figures straight as you peer up at them, I'm citing the inscriptions that appear below and between them. Remember that the inscriptions don't necessarily correspond to the figures near them.

Brooklyn Museum Confucius

Above: Confucius, representing Chinese Philosophy, by Karl Bitter, who's responsible for Franz Sigel on Riverside Drive, Henry Hudson in the Bronx, and the Pulitzer Fountain near the Plaza Hotel.

Brooklyn Museum LaoTse

Above: Lao-Tse, representing Chinese Religion, also by Karl Bitter (see Confucius)

[Inscription: CONFUCIUS]

Brooklyn Museum Chinese Art

Above: Chinese Art, by Karl Bitter (see Confucius)

Brooklyn Museum Chinese Law

Above: Chinese Law, also by Karl Bitter (see Confucius)

[Inscription: LAO-TSE]

Brooklyn Museum Japanese Art

Above: Japanese Art, by Janet Scudder, who's best known for charming garden sculptures.

[Inscription: MOSES]

Brooklyn Museum Moses

Above: Hebrew Law (an allegorical figure holding the Ten Commandments, related to Moses), by Augustus Lukeman, who sculpted the Straus Memorial and a haunting World War I memorial near the Wollman Rink in Prospect Park.

[Inscription: DAVID]

Brooklyn Museum Hebrew Psalmist

Above: Hebrew Psalmist (obviously not David, but related allegorically), also by Lukeman (see Hebrew Law)

[Inscription: JEREMIAH]

Brooklyn Museum Isaiah

Above: Isaiah, representing Hebrew Prophecy, also by Lukeman (see Hebrew Law)

[Inscription: ISAIAH]

Brooklyn Museum St Paul

Above: St. Paul, representing a Hebrew Apostle, also by Lukeman (see Hebrew Law)

[Inscription: ST. PETER]

Brooklyn Museum Islam

Above: the Genius of Islam (related to Mohammed, but even ca. 1900 Mohammed was rarely represented in Western art), by Charles Keck, who created Father Duffy near Times Square.

[Inscription: ST. PAUL]

Sculptures on the north facade, west (right) of the pediment

To help you keep these figures straight as you peer up at them, I'm citing the inscriptions that appear below and between them. Remember that the inscriptions don't necessarily correspond to the figures near them.

[Inscription: PINDAR]

Brooklyn Museum Homer

Above: Homer, representing Greek Epic Poetry, by Daniel Chester French; see Manhattan and Brooklyn near the beginning of this page. This is based on a famous ancient sculpture of Homer.

[Inscription: AESCHYLUS]

Brooklyn Museum Pindar

Above: Greek Lyric Poetry, an allegorical figure related to Pindar, by Daniel Chester French. See his Manhattan and Brooklyn near the beginning of this page.

[Inscription: SOPHOCLES]

Brooklyn Museum Aeschylus

Above: Greek Drama, holding the masks of comedy and tragedy, related to Aeschylus, by George T. Brewster. The only work in my notes by Brewster is the Pleasant Plains Memorial on Staten Island.

[Inscription: PERICLES]

Brooklyn Museum Pericles

Above: Pericles (probably preparing to deliver his famous Funeral Oration), representing the Greek State; by George T. Brewster. See Greek Drama above.

[Inscription: HERODOTUS]

Brooklyn Museum Archimedes

Above: Greek Science (holding a bottle of water), related to Archimedes. Could the artist possibly be refering to Archimedes' discovery of the displacement of water when he lowered himself into his bath? By Kenyon Cox, who is known for painting as well as sculpture.

[Inscription: THUCYDIDES]

Brooklyn Museum Minerva

Above: Minerva (i.e. Athena, with the usual aegis and helmet), representing Greek Religion, by Daniel Chester French. See Manhattan and Brooklyn near the beginning of this page.

[Inscription: SOCRATES]

Brooklyn Museum Plato

Above: Plato (looking serious and philosophical), representing Greek Philosophy, by Herbert Adams, whose William Cullen Bryant stands in Bryant Park.

Brooklyn Museum Phidias

Above: Greek Architecture (holding the top of an Ionic column), related to Phidias, architect of the Parthenon; by Herbert Adams. See Plato.

[Inscription: DEMOSTHENES]

Brooklyn Museum Praxiteles

Above: Greek Sculpture (with a sculpted torso and a mallet), related to Praxiteles, one of the most famous Greek sculptors (4th century B.C.); by Herbert Adams. See Plato.

Brooklyn Museum Demosthenes

Above: Demosthenes, representing Greek Letters, by Herbert Adams. See Plato above.

Sculptures on the west facade

To help you keep these figures straight as you peer up at them, I'm citing the inscriptions that appear below and between them. Remember that the inscriptions don't necessarily correspond to the figures near them.

Brooklyn Museum Justinian

Above: Justinian (holding a huge book), representing Roman Law, by Johannes Gelert, who created the figure of Denmark on the Customs House cornice, and nothing else in New York that I know of.

Brooklyn Museum Julius Caesar

Above: Julius Caesar, representing Roman Statesmen, by Johannes Gelert. See Justinian.

[Inscription: CICERO]

Brooklyn Museum Augustus Caesar

Above: Augustus Caesar (wearing his Augustus of Primaporta outfit), representing the Roman Empire, by Johannes Gelert; see Justinian.

Brooklyn Museum Cicero

Above: Cicero (as an orator, gesturing and with a scroll), representing Roman Orators, by Johannes Gelert. See Justinian.

[Inscription: VIRGIL]

Brooklyn Museum Virgil

Above: Virgil (holding a book?), representing Latin Epic Poetry, by Carl Heber, who sculpted the Spirit of Commerce and Spirit of Industry at the east end of the Manhattan Bridge, and the Greenpoint War Memorial in Monsignor McGolrick Park.

If you're exasperated with the quality of these photos, go back and read the apology / explanation that follows the name, date, and location at the beginning of the article.