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Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial and Battle of Athena With AlcyoneusTerm Paper

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Shaw Memorial (Boston, Ma) and Athena Battling with Alkyoneus

The Shaw memorial is a relief sculpture. Officially known as Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, it honors Robert Shaw and other soldiers who served in the Massachusetts 54TH regiment. This regiment was the first unit of African-Americans who signed up for the Union's cause in the American Civil War. Just within a month of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, an Act that freed all slaves, an African-American unit was formed in the north. The then governor of the State of Massachusetts signed up men for war in his own state, as well as men from Indiana, New York, Ohio, and Missouri. The unit was referred to as "the 54th" and it was brought to the limelight at a battle of Fort Wagner, South Carolina in which the soldiers displayed bravery. The unit was vastly successful due to the courage and sacrifice of its soldiers. After two months of fighting in the Civil War, Colonel Shaw and more than a third of the soldiers who made up the 54th unit died at Fort Wagner, which was one of the forts used to defend the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The bravery of the unit in this particular battle drew more volunteers to sign up and fight for the cause of the Union in the civil War. President Lincoln was of the opinion that the bravery of the unit made a significant difference in the Union's victory (National Endowment for the Humanities).

The Shaw memorial, located opposite the State house on Beacon Street, at the edge of Boston Commons, serves as a reminder to everyone of the heavy cost paid by African-American soldiers, Caucasian abolitionists, and their families during the Civil War (National Park Service, 2015).

The Altar of Zeus, which was built in 175 BCE in Pergamon, is the most popular Hellenistic architectural marvel. It was erected on an elevated structure that is surrounded by an Ionic colonnade, and wings projecting from either side of a wide central staircase. Unlike other Hellenistic temples that featured pediment sculpture, this one has an enormous frieze about 400 feet long with one hundred larger than life sculptures on the altar (Green, 2009).

One of the most iconic scenes in the frieze shows Athena fighting Alkyoneus, the giant. Athena is shown grabbing the giant by its head and pulling it backwards. Simultaneously, Nike, the goddess of victory, hovers over to crown Athena just as Gaia, depicting the Earth itself, is depicted emerging from the underground to plead for the life of Alkyoneus, her son (Boundless, 2015).

Identification/Description

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial is a bronze relief sculpture. It is 11 feet by 14 feet in size. This relief sculpture features the basic design of forms being raised above the background, so that they are not level or flat. The Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens utilized different men as models for each of the soldiers depicted in the sculpture, such that the memorial depicts each soldier as a unique individual (National Park Service, 2015). A motto stating, OMNIA RELINQVIT SERVARE REMPVBLICAM, "He forsook all to preserve the public weal," can be seen on the sculpture. Other notable symbols that were used in the Shaw memorial are 34 stars lined at the top, each representing a state that was a member of the Union in 1863 (Percoco, 2011).

In the frieze depicting Athena in a fight with Alkyoneus, Athena is positioned in the middle of the frieze, with an aegis (the shield of Zeus), and grasping Alkyoneus, who is to the left, by the hair. The depiction also includes Gaia on the bottom right and a winged Nike in the upper right. This relief sculpture is made of marble and measures approximately 2.30m (ca.7ft 7in). It is a part of the larger Gigantomachy frieze, on the Altar of Zeus, Pergamon Acropolis (UNL Libraries Images and Multimedia collection, 2015).

Artist

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, was begun about 20 years after the Civil War ended and was completed about fourteen years later. This was an unusual and never-before done project, designed by a sculptor known as Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The memorial was commissioned by a group of Boston residents to honor Colonel Shaw, a privileged son of Abolitionist parents, for having sacrificed his life in defending the Union's cause. The sculptor of this amazing piece of work, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in 1848 in Ireland. When he was about 6 months old, his family moved to the United States (U), settling in New York. When he turned 19, he traveled to France to study art. At 22 he moved to Rome, Italy, where he studied architecture and classical art for a period of not less than 5 years. Saint-Gaudens then returned to the U.S. And begun working on his own art, and teaching the same at local schools. Apart from the Shaw memorial, some of his other notable pieces include the John Logan Monument, the Peter Cooper Monument, and the Adams Memorial. He died aged 59 (National Endowment for the Humanities).

The sculptor(s) of the frieze portraying Athena fighting Alkyoneus is not known (Green, 2009).

The Robert Shaw memorial is officially titled "The Robert Gould Shaw and the Fifty-fourth Regiment Memorial" (National Park Service, 2015).

Athena fighting Alkyoneus is titled Athena battling Alkyoneus, detail from the Altar of Zeus Frieze (UNL libraries Images and Multimedia Collection, 2015).

The Shaw Memorial was commissioned and designed in 1884; it features a bronze relief sculpture with a freely standing equestrian statue of Colonel Robert Shaw. The sculpture was completed 14 years later (National Endowment for the Humanities).

Athena fighting Alkyoneus relief sculpture on the Altar of Zeus frieze was built in 175 BCE (Green, 2009).

How/with what was it created

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial is a bronze relief sculpture. This relief sculpture, like many others, features the basic design of forms being raised above the background so that they are not level or flat (National Endowment for the Humanities).

Athena fighting Alkyoneus is a marble relief sculpture (UNL Libraries Images and Multimedia collection, 2015).

Location

The Shaw memorial, located opposite the State house on Beacon Street, at the edge of Boston Commons in Boston, Massachusetts, USA (Percoco, 2011).

Athena fighting Alkyoneus is on display at Staatliche Museenzu Berlin - PreussischerKulturbesitz, Pergamonmusum, Antikensammlung in Berlin, Germany (UNL Libraries Images and Multimedia collection, 2015).

Elements of Art

In the Shaw Memorial, Augustus depicts several facial features and age in such a way that the relief sculpture closely represents the soldiers of the 54th regiment. This relief sculpture by Augustus is also the first monument in American history to portray African-Americans realistically, and not in a stereotypical manner. Augustus was so concerned for accuracy that he hired the services of numerable black men to pose as studies for the sculpture he was making. In the same context his piece of art also closely depicts the regalia and other paraphernalia that were carried around by the soldiers of the 54th regiment (National Park Service, 2015).

What is message, subject, symbolism, purpose and effectiveness of the works?

Augustus later remarked, after having completed the work, that he had so much respect and adoration for the Civil War heroes that he considered it his duty to assist in all ways possible, so as to honor them in a dignified manner worthy of their great service (Percoco, 2011). The memorial sculpture commemorates the courage and sacrifice of Colonel Robert Shaw and the soldiers who served in the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which was the first unit of blacks who fought in the Civil War for the cause of the Union (National Endowment for the Humanities).

In the depiction of Athena fighting Alkyoneus, the theme was of great symbolic nature for the Attalid kings, the Hellenic rulers of that time. The subject matter is war being waged by Zeus and other gods against giants, a popular traditional theme in Greek art. However, this particular depiction in Pergamon is the most comprehensive portrayal of that Great War for the control of the human world. Gigantomachy (the fabled war of giants against Zeus and other gods), was selected as a symbol for the Pergamene defeat of the Gauls in the Asia Minor. This relief sculpture was additionally intended to unite the Altar of Zeus and that of the Athenian Parthenon, and therefore link the Pergamene polity to Athenians, who had had a remarkable victory against Persians. In spite of several references to Athenian architecture, the sculptors of Athena battling Alkyoneus frieze did not just merely borrow designs; instead they created new and unique designs that are distinguished by the emotional intensity depicted in the anguished faces and the dramatic and/or rather theatrical poses of the gods (UNL Libraries Images and Multimedia collection, 2015).

Conclusion

One of the best ways to study Civil War memory is to explore northern monuments and their depiction of the contributions made by African-Americans… [END OF PREVIEW]

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