Sunday, September 03, 2006

Two versions of Linnaeus

Above is the Linnaeus (by Robert Berks) that I found last month at the Chicago Botanical Garden -- big, loose, goofy -- almost a product of nature itself -- like a jumble of rotting logs.

And here is the Linnaeus that I found yesterday on the midway at the University of Chicago - donated by the local Swedish community to Chicago's Lincoln park in 1892. The statue was made by the Swedish sculptor, Carl Johan Dyfverman (1844 - 1892), whose descendents have made a website for him here

In 1972, a later generation of Swedish residents (who no longer lived near Lincoln Park) requested that the statue be moved -- and I think it's current setting is perfect for its heavy, solomn pomposity -- surrounded by a very formal, rectangular garden, and set among the pseudo-Medieval towers of the University of Chicago.

The piece is a tribute to book-learning, just the Berks piece celebrated scientific discovery -- and I'll bet that students who sweat over their obtuse texts feel some nostalgia for it after they have graduated (while I was shooting it -- I met a recent alumnus who had returned, camera in hand, to do the same thing)

It's slow, heavy, and ponderous -- but still it does have a majesty -- like a Bruckner symphony -- and can be seen as a gentle, sensitive portrait set atop a sculptural still-life of thick, flowing robes.

So I found the piece quite eye-catching --- especially from a great distance -- and from very close-up. (It's the in-between views that I find a bit awkward)


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