The Devil In The Details: Brownstone Sculpture

There is a little brownstone at 113 E 60th St in New York is rather plain. But it has a rather weird sculpture up top.

At closeup it looks rather sinister, doesn’t it? I could not find any information about the building online. I wonder if the little guy a result of Victorian love of morbid and exotic things, or it was added later, in the Roaring Twenties.


There’s No Cleopatra And There’s No Needle

Central Park contains an amazing artifact commonly referred to as “Cleopatra’s Needle”. It’s one of the many Egyptian obelisks scattered all around the world, and one of the two that used to stand in front of the Sun temple in Heliopolis. A second obelisk is located in London these days.

In general, Egyptian obelisks were moved around the globe by different governments kind of like a college statues by drunken frat boys. The Romans moved the two Cleopatra’s Needles to Alexandria, and then as gifts from the Egyptians to the Great Britain and the US, the were moved by British and American engineers to their current locations. Overall the moves turned out to be amazing feats of engineering, especially with the British overcomplicated scheme of building a pontoon around the obelisk and towing it with another ship.

You can find it right across from the Met, on the 5th Ave. side approximately between 81st and 82nd.

The pillar does not give an impression of being an element of the Sun god’s temple. The 3500 year old monolith is gloomy, foreboding and downright Lovecraftian. The shadow play at sunset is especially spooky (that’s what I tried to capture in the above picture).

Cleopatra has very little to do with either obelisks. They were built by king Tuthmosis III (well, the king probably had some help from his slaves). Later everybody’s favorite pharaoh, Ramses II, seeing how there was a lot of space left on the obelisks added some of his own “press releases” to it:

The writing looks like a story of an alien abduction (with the flying saucers and wavy tractor beams), but as it turns out these are normal hieroglyphics. “Bird , Bird , Giant Eye … Cat Head , guy doing this” and so forth. I thought that there were thousands of glyphs, but it turns out that they are just an alphabet. So the flying saucers on the picture are “R” sounds, and the “tractor beam” is an “H”.

I was surprised to see the pharaoh being referred to as “Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra”. What was he a user of? Well, as it turns out all pharaohs have ridiculous system of 5 different names. I mean, come on, a Horus name and the Golden Horus Name!? (Horus happens to be the Sun god, the one with the falcon head ) User-maat-ra happens to be the throne name, the one that one that the Greeks transcribed as Ozymandias.

So he’s the king from Percy Shelly’s “Ozymandias” sonnet. Yup, good ol’ Ramses was kind of like Donald Trump – liked to build things and put his names on things. Also, like a rockstar or an NBA superstar he had sex with hundreds of women, siring hundreds of children as Durex Ramses condoms were apparently not available back then. Last but not least he was apparently the “7 cows dream” and “let my people go” pharaoh of the Bible.

We Don’t Need No Education!

Well, I thanks to the wonders of email, I found out some things about the sculpture. Pat Willard, who writes for the awesome “Around the Quad” newsletter, was kind enough to answer my question and provide the following info:

The author of this sculpture is a Lithuanian artist V.K. Jonynas. He is pretty famous, and even has his own museum.

The title of the sculpture is “Education”.

The sculpture was knocked down by a truck that backed into it. Very Khrushchevian :).

Brooklyn College Sculpture

This abstract sculpture was once proudly standing near Ingersoll Hall. Now it rusts in the grass. I wonder who made this monstrosity and what it was called.

Strangely enough, twisted pieces of metal welded together are closely associated with sculpture these days. When I think of sculpture, I think about granite, marble, wood, clay or bronze. I think about chisels and wax models. Rebar and welding apparatus I closely associate with construction work.

A friend of mine met her boss’ daughter carrying a huge pile of rusty metal somewhere. She asked her about what is she was going to do with it. She became very surprised and answered – “Don’t you know? I am a sculptor!”