Manship’s Heroic Prometheus Sculpture Celebrates “the Promise of the Future”

I wanted to use a photo of Manship’s Prometheus sculpture on the cover of my book Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. My editor vetoed my choice on the grounds that Prometheus was a male and the cover design needed to be gender-neutral.

(p. C14) Think a minute, then name an outdoor sculpture in Manhattan. Chances are, you chose the gilded image of Prometheus at the heart of Rockefeller Center, . . .

. . .

In conceiving his urban commercial complex, John D. Rockefeller Jr. wanted to celebrate civilization, human achievement and the promise of the future.

. . .

It’s a very serious, and very handsome, Prometheus that Manship fashioned. He chose to depict the moment after the titan has stolen the fire and is descending to Earth, signified in the sculpture by the summit behind him, and by the sea as portrayed by the pool beneath him. Prometheus, eyes wide open, looks down toward his destination. His youthful, strong-featured face betrays not worry exactly, but acknowledgment that he will face consequences from an angry Zeus, who did not want mankind to rival the gods in any way. But Prometheus is determined to give humanity the flame in his right hand, held above his head, almost triumphantly. With his outstretched left arm, he balances himself—and Manship balances his heroic sculpture.

. . .

Manship also added an element to the whole: He suggested the quote from Aeschylus that is carved in bold capital letters on the wall behind his work, strengthening its seamless link to its setting: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”

Manship thus delivered a powerful piece of statement art.

. . .

. . . —Prometheus stands out. He is a marvel within a larger urban marvel.

For the full story, see:

Judith H. Dobrzynski. “MASTERPIECE; A Monument of Titanic Beauty.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, August 22, 2020): C14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 21, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

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