Friday, July 21, 2017

Statuary of the Wisconsin State Capitol

For those willing to walk up the winding stairway to the base of the domed area of the capitol building, some additional artistic creations await. As you circumnavigate the observation deck, you will notice four groups of statuary made from Bethel White Vermont granite.  Completed between 1911 and 1915, they were carved by American master sculptor, Karl Bitter. The sculptures are arranged in pyramidal groups of three, with the central figure standing on a raised base and about 12 feet high. On each side of are seated figures, each about 5 feet high. Each group are meant to symbolize characteristics of Wisconsin and its citizens.
Overlooking East Washington Avenue is the group representing Knowledge. The seated figures, representing the inherited knowledge base, conduct research in scrolls/books. The central figure, reminding me of Michelangelo's male sculptures, is depicted as one who contemplates the significance of the world. He builds upon his own studies with past historians who have recorded their observations and experiences. Religious faith and knowledge is also emphasized here, along with worldly insight.     

Overlooking Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is the group representing "Faith" - an aspect that Bitter saw as an important in the lives of Wisconsin citizens.  These female figures bow their heads in humility and obedience, revering a higher power and respecting the civil law. Love, charity, and strength are also exuded by this trio.
This group of figures, facing the northwest direction towards Washington Avenue, signifies Prosperity and Abundance. As the second group of all-females. they are shown with symbols such as an overflowing vase of fruit and cornucopias of plenty. The standing figure extends her hand as if to give to others. This sculptural set emphasizes the rich farmland of the state, along with industrial and natural resources. Such abundance benefits the citizens and its government.

Strength is what the trio facing the West Washington Avenue embodies. The central figure holds a shield and sword, signifying his readiness to defend his country. One of the seated figures is very muscular, conveying physical strength and endurance. The other figure, although also muscular, is blind, emphasizing that the service and defence requires more than just brute strength; it also requires insightful, knowledgeable individuals.

Resource: Wisconsin State Capitol Guide and History

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