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  All-Star Statues

Hopkins is teeming with monuments, but who are the MVPs? Here, our subjective scouting report, with winners immortalized on their own collect-'em-all cards.

By Mary Mashburn
Photos by Chris Hartlove and Mike McGovern

It's a hard call, picking the all-stars of the Hopkins Stationary League. Everybody's got a favorite; people tend to be a little zealous about the big guy on their campus. A few statues, of course, possess the kind of clout that makes them first-round picks -- the Johns Hopkins monument has stellar name recognition; the Christus Consolator statue at Hopkins Hospital seems to have a lock on power-hitting with its divine connection.

Cindy Kelly, monument maven and director of Historic Houses, taps Sidney Lanier as her top choice, and who are we to argue? After all, Lanier -- poet, musician, teacher, soldier -- is the kind of utility player you want to have around.

When you've got a whole dynasty going (the Bufano Sculpture Garden), that guarantees special notice. And then there are the quiet ones, the team players who stake their claim to a key position: the shepherd boy with his flute, a centerpiece in the swirl of classes and concerts at the Peabody, and the frog minding his patch of green in the School of Nursing courtyard.

If statues made endorsement deals, this would be a sought-after group of pitchmen. They are the object of rituals no less sacred than the baseball cap turned sideways to start a rally, or the pitcher wearing lucky socks: The next time you're under the dome at Hopkins Hospital, take a look at the worn toe of the Christ statue; at Nursing, watch doctoral candidates kiss the smiling frog.

On the ever-changing campuses of Hopkins, these monuments serve as touchstones as each generation, each visitor discovers them. Some are in a bit of a slump -- the Bufano sculptures, marred by vandals, await a fresh start. But it is the statues' accessibility and vulnerability, standing as they do in public spaces, that draw people. "Statues create a sense of place and give us a sense of history; they offer the building blocks for the cultural landscape of the campus," says Kelly.

Special thanks to Cindy Kelly, director of Historic Houses; Nancy McCall, Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives; and Elizabaeth Schaaf, Peabody Institute archivist, for sharing their knowledge and research.


Born: 1960

Height: 32 inches

Material: Cast marble

Acquired: Gift of Jerry S. Mosher; one of a group of sculptures given by or on loan from the Bufano Society of the Arts

Position: Homewood's Dunning Park, between Mudd Hall and the new student recreation center

Career Highlights

Owl is one of 10 animal figures by Beniamino Bufano on the Homewood campus. The Italian-born Bufano (1898-1970), only 5 feet tall, studied at the Art Students League in New York and settled in San Francisco to sculpt and teach. To protest World War I, Bufano severed his own finger and sent it to President Woodrow Wilson; he later created a St. Francis sculpture made entirely from melted guns. His son, Erskine, wanted his father's work to be better known, so he looked for East Coast campuses willing to set aside space for sculpture. Hopkins was initially worried about the sculptures being on loan, not wanting to landscape a site unless Bufano guaranteed the statues wouldn't be taken away by their owners. Bufano agreed, and the sculpture garden was dedicated May 16, 1983; it remains a small pocket of verdant woods amid the campus building boom.

Scouting Report

The cast granite and marble sculptures, ranging from a glossy black horse to a pearly snail, were battered by vandals less than a decade after they were dedicated. "I have estimates for the repair of every piece," notes Cindy Kelly, shaking her head over the many broken ears and two headless sculptures. 1994 estimate for repairs: $20,000. Sibling rivalry: A Bufano owl holds a position of honor at Temple University (where the school mascot is an owl).


Born: 1935

Height: 19 feet

Material: Bronze and marble

Acquired: Given by the Baltimore Municipal Art Society to the city of Baltimore

Position: Intersection of Charles and 33rd streets, next to the Mattin Center at Homewood

Career Highlights

For two decades, the memorial to Johns Hopkins cut an imposing figure in the center of Charles Street at 34th, where both traffic and controversy swirled around it. According to Hopkins Magazine, critics initially complained about the art (too few clothes on the allegorical figures at the base) and safety (fish ponds called for in the plans were deemed a danger to small children and never built). But it was a 1952 tragedy that prompted the statue's removal from mid-street to the sidelines: Two firefighters were killed and six injured when fire trucks racing to a dormitory mattress fire collided, their view obstructed by the monument. It took three years for the university and the city to agree on a new site; Hopkins nixed a plan to locate it on what is now "the Beach" and instead deeded land at Charles and 33rd. When the Mattin Center was built, the monument's backdrop changed from wooded glade to spare brick walls.

Scouting Report

Hans Schuler (1874-1951) was a noted Baltimore monument maker whose works include Hopkins University's Sidney Lanier and a statue of President James Buchanan in Washington, D.C. The Hopkins monument features a portrait bust of the philanthropist looking out from atop a marble pylon. On the north side of the base, a female figure holding a bowl, a serpent encircling her arm, represents healing and the hospital; on the south side, a contemplative male figure with a book and a scroll represents knowledge and the university. A fountain in front of the monument is a metaphor for the continuing impact of Hopkins' $7 million gift to Baltimore.


Born: Mid-19th century

Height: 55 inches

Material: Marble

Acquired: A late-1800s gift from Enoch Pratt to the Peabody Institute art gallery; the collection of 1,400-plus objects was acquired by the state of Maryland in 1996

Position: Base of the circular staircase in the Peabody Institute's lobby

Career Highlights

Enoch Pratt, best known for building the city's first free library, was a friend of fellow philanthropists George Peabody and William Walters (of Walters Art Museum fame) and served as a Peabody Institute trustee for more than 30 years. The Campagna Shepherd Boy is one of two statues he gave to the institute's Gallery of Art. Founded in 1857, the gallery was for many years the only place in the city for the public to see important works, including sculptures by William Henry Rinehart; paintings by Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and Childe Hassam; and a collection of plaster casts of antiquities, among other objects. By the 1930s, the rapidly expanding conservatory subsumed the North Hall gallery site, and most of the works were loaned to city museums; the Shepherd Boy stayed behind, moving to his current location at the foot of the stair.

Scouting Report

The Shepherd Boy's creator, Edward Sheffield Bartholomew (1822-1858), turned to sculpting after discovering he was colorblind. The neoclassical sculptor died at 36, but this statue speaks of eternal youth. Elizabeth Schaaf, archivist for the Peabody who studied voice at the school, recalls, "I walked by the statue every day, up the stairs to lessons, passing by it on the way into the concert hall. The marble musician looking down in his bemused way was a real presence."


Born: Original executed in 1821, copy in mid-1890s

Height: 10-1/2 feet

Material: Carrara marble, from a single block

Acquired: Gift of William Wallace Spence, unveiled Oct. 14, 1896

Position: Under the dome in what was once Hopkins Hospital's main lobby

Career Highlights

Johns Hopkins, a Quaker, stipulated in making his gift that the hospital would have no religious affiliation, an unheard of notion at the time. When Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, three years after its founder's death, the ceremony contained no trace of religiosity. The public outcry extended well beyond Baltimore, and Daniel Coit Gilman, president of the university and the hospital, seems to have decided to make amends. He sought a private donor for the acquisition of a copy of Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's statue of Christ for the hospital's lobby, and William Wallace Spence, a Presbyterian friend of Johns Hopkins, agreed, to the tune of 20,000 Danish crowns, or $5,360. Five years later, the marble replica by Theobald Stein, director of the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, was unveiled in a ceremony featuring sacred music, prayer, and an invocation.

Scouting Report

Flowers, from humble carnations to elaborate bouquets, are left at the statue's feet each day, along with notes, money, stuffed animals, and other tokens. A custodian pushes his cart past, surreptitiously touching the hem of the statue's robe; a young doctor runs his hand over the well-worn toe of the statue's right foot. A patient with an IV lingers, looking up at the outstretched hands. Nearby, a visitors' book is filled with prayers: "Good Morning God -- We need more help. Please heal Ron completely and permanently and let us grow old together." The statue's power as a touchstone of healing has merited a book: Here Is My Hope (Doubleday, 2001).


Born: Latter part of the 20th century

Height: 3-1/2 feet

Material: Copper

Acquired: Townsend and Bob Kent gave the frog; Jennie Lee Fowlkes gave the toadstool he perches on

Position: By the splashing fountain in the School of Nursing courtyard, an oasis in East Baltimore

Career Highlights

The School of Nursing got its own building in 1998, with big windows overlooking a courtyard. The Kents dedicated the courtyard to the four nurses who cared for their 11-year-old daughter in the days after an accident that led to her death. "The nurses were the most incredible people to us," says Townsend Kent, a doctor's daughter. "The doctors would fly in and out, but it was always the nurses who translated what was being done." Kent, who has a frog of her own in her living room (he relaxes outside in the summer), notes, "Nurses' work is so intense and oftentimes so disheartening. We thought if they could go in that courtyard and for a moment just be whimsically uplifted. ... We chose the frog because our daughter would have loved that frog." PhD students kiss his friendly green face to mark the successful completion of their dissertations.

Scouting Report

The frog is the work of self-taught artists Charles Smith and his two sons, Alexander and Beau. The elder Smith has a PhD in engineering and math and is on the medical faculty of the University of South Carolina; he draws on experience gained in the family welding business to create the amphibians. The Smiths' frogs enjoy human pursuits; in honor of Sue Donaldson, a former Nursing dean who plays violin, the frog in the courtyard contentedly plays his own fiddle.


Born: 1941, younger sibling to the Hopkins monument

Height: Almost 9 feet

Material: Bronze and unpolished granite boulders

Acquired: Given by the Baltimore Municipal Art Society; dedicated 2/3/42, the centenary of Lanier's birth

Position: By a bus stop on Charles Street near University Parkway; bus riders often sit on a bench next to Lanier

Career Highlights

The monument Hans Schuler created of Sidney Lanier shows him at rest in a bucolic setting, an idealized view of a man who wanted only to pursue his art but struggled mightily to achieve his goals. Lanier, a well-born Georgian, had a gift for music and with no formal training learned to play the flute, organ, piano, and violin. Enlisting in the Confederate Army, he ended the war in a Maryland prison, contracting the consumption that plagued him throughout his life. Lanier's quest to make a living through his art brought him to Baltimore, where he was offered the position of first flute in the Peabody Symphony Orchestra by Asger Hamerik in 1873. In 1879, Lanier was appointed a lecturer in English literature at Hopkins. The most widely acclaimed Southern poet of the post-Civil War period (famous poems include "The Marshes of Glynn" and "Songs of the Chattahoochee"), he died in 1881, at 39.

Scouting Report

Cindy Kelly first fell in love with Lanier's statue when documenting outdoor sculpture for the city. "Visually it is so beautiful and so unusual, but when you learn about the man, it makes the statue so poignant," she says. The sculpture shows the tall Southerner in repose, holding a pencil and journal, with coat, hat, flute, and sheet music by his side. His gaunt face is framed by an allegorical bas relief with trees and marsh. The sun on the horizon makes a visual reference to a line from his last completed poem, "Sunrise": "I am lit with the Sun," which is also the inscription on his grave at Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery.

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