Sunday, November 1, 2020

A Bronze Mystery

I have had reason to visit the infusion center at our local hospital, Christus St. Vincent, on a daily basis bringing my wife for antibiotic infusions. Due to Covid restrictions I must wait for her outside the center which is at the back of the hospital. In a nearby enclosed staff “picnic area” I discovered a sculpture that I told my wife has become my new girlfriend!

Who’s that woman under the tree?

At first, looking at it against the sunlight, I just saw a life size bronze of a crouching woman with voluptuous breasts, but then I noticed a protrusion from her underside.  Was this a hermaphrodite?

When I described it to my wife, she said this was a classic position for giving birth and I should look at it from the bother side. So, the next day I visited, and went to the back of the sculpture. With the sun shining directly on it I saw the baby’s head coming out.

I was fascinated by the piece and kept going back to it. There was no label indicating who it was by. About the fifth time I walked around it I found the signature.  It was quite clear on the base, so either I was just not focusing, or it had been covered by autumn leaves.  Below is an image of the signature, E. RobergĂ©, with the date, but who is that? A thorough search of the internet has been no help so far.  Maybe, one of my readers will be able to enlighten me.

Why was this wonderful piece hidden at the back of the hospital while another innocuous bronze sculpture of a mother and child was prominently positioned in front of the main entrance. Could it be that people would find its realism too much to handle?

I phoned the Hospital Foundation, which I presumed to be responsible for much of the art there, but they were not able to help.  I was told there was no information that they knew of on my lady and no committee or individual in charge of art acquisitions.

There is a great deal of colorful “art” work on the walls of the hospital but most of it is what I would call “art by the yard”, images of unidentified paintings printed on stretched canvas of the type available online as “wall art”. I can only guess it was budgeted in a building or renovation program.  Once in a while a piece stands out and one can assume that it was donated by an artist or a grateful patient.  In the case, of my new girlfriend I assume that it was the artist.

My curiosity about this sculpture started out because I thought I saw as an ambiguity, it then became an inquiry and then a fascination.  As you have probably experienced, we always want to know more about the one we love! 

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