Opossum of Protection - Philadelphia, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 39° 58.035 W 075° 10.770
18S E 484670 N 4424137
Quick Description: This amazing sculpture is one of five allegorical figures symbolizing the attributes of insurance. The Opossum of Protection is located high atop the front of the former Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance company.
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 8/7/2013 11:22:06 AM
Waymark Code: WMHR58
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
Views: 2

Long Description:

This wonderful and very fun building represents the first major expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In fact, we didn't even know what it was until a bus ferried the kids and I over from the main building for the Museum's Splash event, a program for children. The building is lavishly decorated with sculpture, color and gilding, and is regarded as one of the finest Art Deco structures in Philadelphia. The building is now a hot spot for kids and moms & dads, with five family-friendly exhibitions, Pay What You Wish family festivals, interactive art and play zones, and daily family programs. We explored every inch of the building as well as learned how to make embossed art. I was most impressed with the outside of the building. I spied over 20 examples of relief art, and that was only the front and the two winged sides; lord knows what's going on in the back of that thing. The most impressive of the outer adornments were the five allegorical figures representing the insurance industry, one of which is this squirrel.

Sculptor Lee Lawrie created this building's decorative scheme, which features this polychrome facades adorned with these figures symbolizing attributes of insurance: the owl of wisdom, the dog of fidelity, the pelican of charity, the opossum of protection, and the squirrel of frugality. The possum, an Egyptian creation, is located in the absolute middle of the display, high atop the front facade. The possum has its head turned looking behind, perhaps at the three babies which are on its back. Its tail is curled up. I am not sure what kind of metal of which it is composed but it is golden, so I guess it is not bronze. It's something gilded.

The building originally housed the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance company, and the polychrome sculpture adopted Egyptian-inspired flora and fauna symbolizing attributes of insurance: the owl of wisdom, the dog of fidelity, the pelican of charity, the opossum of protection, and the squirrel of frugality. With numerous other reliefs such as the Seven Ages of Man and the Perils of Land, Sea, and Air on the Earth's Four Great Continents, it remains the most elaborately sculpted facade of any 20th-century building in the city of Philadelphia." Fisk Kimball, Director, Philadelphia Museum of Art. SOURCE

Lee Oscar Lawrie (October 16, 1877 – January 23, 1963) was one of the United States' foremost architectural sculptors and a key figure in the American art scene preceding World War II. Over his long career of more than 300 commissions Lawrie's style evolved through Modern Gothic, to Beaux-Arts Classicism and finally into Moderne or Art Deco. His work includes the details on the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska and some of the architectural sculpture and his most prominent work, the free-standing bronze Atlas (installed 1937) at New York City's Rockefeller Center.

Name or use 'Unknown' if not known: Opossum of Protection

Figure Type: Animal

Artist Name or use 'Unknown' if not known: Lee Oscar Lawrie

Date created or placed or use 'Unknown' if not known: 1926

Materials used: Some kind of metal

Location: Perelman Building

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