11 September 2021

Robert E. Lee and Antonin Mercié, condemned together


As these photographs attest, Robert E Lee will no longer have a bird's eye view over Broad street in Richmond, Virginia. The 12 ton statue will be taken somewhere, but where? 

The sculptor was a Frenchman, Antonin Mercié, who designed it in France, built it in four pieces and shipped it to America to be re-assembled and set upon the large stone monument in 1890.

I am all for the removal of iconic Bad guys, I mean, who would want to have to walk by a large imposing statue of Donald Trump or Adolph Hitler everyday on their way to work?

But, context is everything, especially these days and one cannot argue with its removal. But personally, I would have loved to see it remain with new brass placard revealing the real history of Robert E Lee. The problem with that is that there seems to be two very different stories about this man. So maybe the only answer was to remove it and be done with it. Only sadly, one is never done with it, for racism, and the rejection of a multicultural country is still an anathema to a great majority of people in the United States. 

And the truth is that all of this reverence for Robert E. Lee and so many other Confederate myths indeed were all fabricated after the Civil War. It is almost as if the Civil War never happened, or was it about something else entirely different? One can easily see how the White establishment behaved for the next 100 years. 

I rather like it also decorated with so much colourful graffiti like in the following photo. From a distance it looks garlanded with fresh flowers.

Being a painter, and a lover of most things artistic, I feel terrible for any works of Art to be ransacked and destroyed for contextual reasons. Haven't we learned anything from the French Revolution? 

My hope is that it will not be melted down but preserved as a work of great craftsmanship and perhaps stowed away until it can be seen as  in a different light certainly in another time. I think it is a magnificent sculpture.

I wrote previously about this, last year, when George Floyd was murdered. I reminded my dear readers that a walk through the Roman rooms in the Louvre revealed many marble portraits of anonymous senators condemned to reside in a dark wing on the first floor. Who knows what these guys got up to?

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