There is no shortage of great sculpture in Pittsburgh, especially in the East End. To find out more about five of our favorites, we relied on the book “Discovering Pittsburgh’s Sculpture” by Marilyn Evert and Vernon Gay.
Three bronze maidens are silent witnesses to the many weddings held in the Broderie Room at Phipps Conservatory. The sculptures are the work of Edmond Amateis, who created them in 1927 for a Renaissance garden planted outside Richard Beatty Mellon’s Tudor-style mansion in Shadyside. Originally, they stood inside stone niches in a brick wall at the back of the garden. The 65-room mansion was demolished in 1940. A fountain that was part of the garden remains today in Mellon Park’s walled garden. Richard Mellon Scaife donated the garden figures to Phipps.
Scottish poet Robert Burns was a pioneer of the romantic movement in literature. In this statue outside Phipps Conservatory, sculptor John Massey Rhind shows Burns wearing knickers, a tam o’shanter and standing at his plow. Rhind said he tried to make the statue “as handsome as I could, for he was essentially a ladies’ man.” The same could be said of singer songwriter Bob Dylan, who said he was influenced by the Burns poem, “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose.” Mr. Dylan’s lady loves included Joan Baez and Judy Collins. The Burns statue was dedicated on a snowy, windy day in October 1914 by Andrew Carnegie.
This bronze and Quincy granite statue of Edward Manning Bigelow outside Phipps Conservatory was the first sculpture dedicated in Schenley Park. Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti captured Bigelow’s modest but determined character. An engineer, director of public works and parks commissioner, Bigelow persuaded wealthy heiress Mary Schenley to donate the land for the city park that bears her name. Bigelow also played a key role in creating Highland Park. Bigelow Boulevard was named for him a few weeks after his death in 1916.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the greatest sculptors to work in the Beaux-Arts style, created the Christopher Lyman Magee memorial outside the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch in Oakland. A classic political machine boss, Magee was a powerful, wealthy Republican. His Oakland home, The Maples, became the site of Magee-Womens Hospital. He donated money to establish the Pittsburgh Zoo. The memorial features a famous Shakespearean passage about the quality of mercy.
Located in East Liberty near the public library, Virgil Cantini’s fountain “Joy of Life” was created to show the value of unity. The artist was deeply affected by the political divisions and unrest that rocked America during the 1960s. This sculpture of men locking arms expresses Cantini’s hope that Americans would develop a stronger sense of mutual dependence. Dedicated in 1969, the Cor-Ten steel sculpture symbolizes “the strong and the weak, the affluent and the poor, the educated and the underprivileged.”
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter: @mpitzpg