28 March 2016

Stone Maidens by Eugenio Pedon

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The metal placard on the base of this sculpture identifies it as Stone Maidens, but this is an incomplete sculpture. There should be three figures here instead of just two, and there are multiple titles for the grouping. These two individual figures are titled Navigation and Enlightenment. The Smithsonian Institute keeps an inventory of public artwork, and they list this piece by four different titles: Navigation, Enlightenment, Stone Maidens, Ladies of Stone, and Stone Ladies. Whatever you call it, it is two thirds of a sculpture originally created to top the Federal Building (which became the Post Office building) downtown in 1889. Rescued from demolition in 1966 this duo now grace the entrance to the Children’s Museum at the corner of W. Commons.

There were actually two identical sculptures that topped the old post office. The six individual figures from those two sculptures were all saved, but they were divided and spread out around the city. Why they were separated we don’t know, but the third figure in the grouping (Industry) is now at Station Square. In fact you can find Industry by itself, and Industry along with the second copy of Navigation, at two locations in Station Square.

The description in the Smithsonian inventory has the seated figure (Navigation) holding a rudder and the standing figure (Enlightenment) holding a lamp. When we look at Enlightenment, we think there is something missing from her raised arm, (perhaps a torch?), but since it appears that she has the lamp (or lantern) in her other hand we really don't know what else she might have been holding. We have been unable to locate a photo of the original trio before they were damaged. The other copy of Enlightenment is currently up on Mt Washington, and her raised arm is completely broken off on that copy.

The figures appear to be out of proportion because they were designed to be viewed standing on the street looking up at the Post Office roof.

The sculpture is part of the artifacts collection of the Pgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

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