Archive for June, 2012
“Slow but steady wins the race.”
So said Aesop in the fable of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” And those are the two last figures that Hermon A. MacNeil placed as ‘bookends’ on either end of the East Pediment of the US Supreme Court Building. On our recent visit to Washington, D.C., we slowly made our way to the Supreme Court Building, we walked steadily around to the East Pediment (back side) passing the barricades for all the current landscape construction.
There, hidden high on the seldom-seen back side of **Cass Gilbert’s last architectural achievement, rests the eleven marble figures of Hermon A. MacNeil’s tribute to “Justice: The Guardian of Liberty.” Unless you walk around the building you will miss this massive work of art.
Moses, Confucius, and Solon represent three great world civilizations. Moses (receiver of Hebrew Ten Commandments) is in the center. To his right is Confucius (Chinese philosopher and teacher). To Moses’ left is Solon (Athenian lawmaker, statesman, and poet). MacNeil explained his work as follows:
“Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The ‘Eastern Pediment’ of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East.”
This trio of law makers are framed on left and right by three pairs of allegorical figures. The rest of the grouping is as follows:
“Flanking this central group – left – is the symbolical figure bearing the means of enforcing the law. On the right a group tempering justice with mercy, allegorically treated. The “Youth” is brought into both these groups to suggest the “Carrying on” of civilization through the knowledge imbibed of right and wrong. The next two figures with shields; Left – The settlement of disputes between states through enlightened judgment. Right – Maritime and other large functions of the Supreme Court in protection of the United States. The last figures: Left – Study and pondering of judgments. Right – A tribute to the fundamental and supreme character of this Court. Finale – The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.“
East Pediment description: CLICK HERE
** NOTE: “Gilbert, Sr. died in 1934, one year before the completion of the Supreme Court Building by his son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. MacNeil and Gilbert first collaborated in 1904 at the Saint Louis World’s Fair. That “Palace of Fine Arts” on Art Hill now houses the St. Louis Art Museum.”
For more on Supreme Court Building See Also:
For more on Saint Louis World’s Fair See Also:
This B&W studio photo of Hermon MacNeil’s “World War I Monument ” in Flushing, NY was sent to the website by John Gomez. John rescued the original photo from a file of papers in a Manhattan Flea Market. The photo appears to be 87 years old.
Here is his story from yesterday:
“I wanted to inform you that I discovered about ten articles/photos of MacNeil’s work in the far rear section of a flea market on 25th Street in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. This was yesterday. I was stunned to find them in a heap of junk. … [They] seemed to have come out of a historian’s binder. Some items are news articles and some are archival photos. ”
~ John Gomez ~ Historic Preservation Network
Here is John’s recent blog post on his Historic Preservation Network about this MacNeil flea-market discovery. He has given permission to link it here CLICK HERE.
John also comments: “It is gratifying to learn that MacNeil descendants are preserving his legacy.”
Thank you John for your email and photo.
Below are some recent photos of the WWI Monument in Flushing, NY courtesy of Gibson Shell of KC, MO.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION NEWWORK:
John Gomez, M.S. Historic Preservation, Columbia University; Historic Preservation Network; Post Office Box 20084; London Terrace Statio; New York, NY 1001; hpnetwork.org > firstname.lastname@example.org ; 201.888.9543