The bronze monument portrays George Washington in his role as commander in chief during the Revolutionary Way.
The monument is a must-see for anyone who visits or lives in Philadelphia. I have seen every monument and sculpture the city has to offer and this by far is the most impressive, ornate and detailed. It is simply one of the most beautiful outdoor works of art I have ever seen. Even my kids were enthralled by the monument and have asked me if they could go back and visit it again. The monument is ‘constructed’ in three zones or levels, each representing a different concept: Washington (the hero) sits at the top; allegorical figures depicting his time are on the middle level; and on the lowest level are the flora and fauna of his country with representative figures.
The sculpture features way up in the air an equestrian portrait of Washington dressed in his military uniform sitting on top of a pedestal base adorned with historical relief scenes, allegorical figures, and military figures. Surrounding the base of the sculpture are figures of Native Americans and animals typically found in America during George Washington's time. The female Indian figures are naked, completely nude. Try explaining that to your kids. They are surrounded by a bounty of nature, one, surrounded by all kinds of fish and edible aquatic life.
I saw alligators, pike fish, buffalo, moose (meese?), elk, deer, eagles and a big ole bear. Most of the animals come in pairs. All of this are on stairs which lead up to the central shaft hoisting Washington in the air. Fountains are on the four corners. They were not on when I visited, due to the winter weather. The figures are allegorical representations of Washington's era in American history. The groups arranged around the lower level show Native American people as well as animals and plants of the period.
The most noteworthy elements of the monument are the two opposing, rectangular (oblong) tablets, bronze relief scenes, depicting various Colonial persons (none of note), and on one side, engaged in unknown activities. The elongated tablets are found on the east and west side of the monument, along the second tier of the monument. On the western side, the characters are in varying positions and stances, facing opposite directions haphazardly. I could not figure out what they were up to and surprisingly, there is zero mention of this monument element on the internet and there was no information available at the Art Museum. The eastern side relief has more order and 'symmetry'. From what I could tell, the scene depicts a column of infantrymen, Revolutionary war vintage, marching toward battle. There is a drummer, flag bearers, and other well-dressed military men. In very light relief in the background are relief etchings of other military men, probably generals, looking on at the scene, perhaps a victorious one.
The sculptor was Rudolf Siemering (1835-1905) and the monument was founded by Gegossen Lauchhammer. The monument is 44 feet high. The base is granite and all the critters and George are bronze. The monument was dedicated May 15, 1897 and relocated 1928. At the time the AGS entry was written for this monument, it has already been placed in its new home. This piece was erected by the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania. It was originally installed at the Green Street entrance to Fairmount Park, but when the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was finished in 1928, the monument was moved to its current site at the end of the parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Officially, this part of town is known as Eakins Oval (west end).
The monument was donated to the City of Philadelphia by the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania, a group of descendants of Revolutionary War officers. Restoration of this astoundingly complex and detailed monument was completed in June of 1997.
About the location of this statue, Eakins Oval:
At the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, just in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is Eakins Oval. The loop of road is usually host to a large volume of traffic as it connects the core of the city with Fairmount Park, Kelly Drive (formerly East River Drive), and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive). During holiday parades and other major municipal events, such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade, it is shut down to automobile traffic and it becomes the center stage for the gathering. The oval was part of urban planner Jacques Gréber's design for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which he proposed in 1917. The oval is named for Thomas Eakins, Philadelphia resident, world-famous realist painter, and fine arts educator. The southeastern side of the oval is used as a parking lot. This is where you want to part to visit the monument.
2600 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PKWY
DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART'S EAST TERRACE STEPS
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19130