St. Louis Regional Arts Commission

Public Art Details

Christopher Columbus

Artist: Ferdinand von Miller II
Region: Tower Grove Park
Location: Ward 8 - At the Grand Avenue Entrance to Tower Grove Park
Address: Tower Grove Ave at Magnolia Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63116
Artist Bio:

1842-1929


Dimensions: 9' x 4' x 4'
Year completed: 1884
Material: Bronze on limestone pedestal with bronze plaques
Owner: Tower Grove Park
Donor: Henry Shaw

Description:

Henry Shaw wanted fine music and works of art in his Tower Grove Park, so he hired architects to build cupola-covered bandstands and commissioned artists to produce sculptures, including marble busts of his favorite composers—Mozart, Rossini, Wagner, Beethoven, Gounod, and Verdi. Busts of Sullivan and Donizetti were planned for the last two pedestals, but Shaw passed away before they could be produced, so simple marble spheres took their place. Beginning in 1873, Shaw provided free Sunday concerts during summer months, featuring at least one piece by one of the composers represented on the busts. The badly deteriorated original busts were put in storage at the park in 1992 and replaced with the replica composite stone sculptures that are on view today. Several of the original pieces are on view in the Piper Palm House in Tower Grove Park.

Born in Munich, Germany in 1842, Ferdinand von Miller II was the son of the founder of the Royal Bronze Foundry, where many of America's major nineteenth century monuments were cast. While managing his inherited business, he also worked as a sculptor in stone and bronze. From 1900 to 1918 he was the Director of the Munich Academy. His statue Christopher Columbus was the last of three figures that Henry Shaw commissioned from von Miller for Tower Grove Park, and it was the first Columbus statue to be erected in the United States. The benefactor and the sculptor were both detail-oriented men and argued over whether Columbus would have worn a beard. Shaw insisted that the statue have one, even though the sculptor's research indicated that Genoese sailors of that time were beardless. In the end both men got their way. Columbus is depicted with a full beard, but near his foot is an inscription added by the artist (in German): "It is not my fault that the head of Columbus is not true, but the wish of the client."


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