The closing of museums during the pandemic put me in a state of art withdrawal. In search of a fix, I traveled to various locations in the Greater Boston area looking for publicly-accessible art. On several days in June, I wandered around downtown Boston, looking for public art. I found quite a bit of art in Boston Common, which I was able to identify either through plaques or an online search. Sadly, the
Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment (1897) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was undergoing renovations at the time of my visit so I was unable to get a photo of this remarkable sculpture.
BREWER FOUNTAIN (1868)
The oldest work of art in Boston Common is the Brewer Fountain, designed by French sculptor Michel Joseph Napoléon Liénard. The original was created for the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris. This bronze cast was made in Paris and donated to the City of Boston by wealthy merchant Gardner Brewer. It was unveiled in 1868. The figures at the base of the fountain represent Neptune, his wife Amphitrite (Neptune’s wife), the Nereid (sea-nymph) Galatea and her mortal lover Acis, whose story is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Above and below: detail of Brewer’s Fountain.
2. SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MONUMENT (1877)
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Boston Common is a Civil War memorial designed by Martin Milmore and erected in 1877. It consists of a base and column (topped by an allegorical figure of America), freestanding statues (including a soldier, a sailor, and allegorical figures of Peace and History) and bas reliefs.
Detail of the base of the monument.
The Departure for War. One of the bas reliefs on the base of Martin Milmore’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
The Sanitary Commission, showing medical treatment at a Civil War battlefield, is another one of the bas reliefs.
The Return from the War: Massachusetts Governor John Andrew greets returning soldiers.
4. BOSTON MASSACRE MONUMENT (1888)
The Boston Massacre Monument (also known as the Crispus Attucks Monument, in honor of the first man killed in the massacre) was designed by Robert Adolf Kraus and erected in 1888. The main figure is an allegory of the Spirit of the Revolution, who is holding a broken chain and standing on a broken British crown, along with an eagle about to take flight.
A bas relief on the Boston Massacre Memorial shows the massacre itself taking place in front of the Old State House, with the body of Crispus Attucks at front center.
5. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE TABLET (1925)
The Declaration of Independence Tablet, by John Francis Paramino includes a sculpted eagle, a bas relief, and a complete replica of the original Declaration of Independence, with signatures. It was erected on the Tremont Street side of Boston Common in 1925.
Detail of the tablet showing the bas relief, which appears to be based on John Trumbull’s 1817 painting.
6. THE FOUNDERS MEMORIAL (1930)
The Founders Memorial was designed by John Francis Paramino and was erected on the Beacon Street side of Boston Common in 1930. The bas relief on the Founders Memorial shows Rev. William Blaxton greeting John Winthrop, Ann Pollard, and others. At left, several Native Americans (probably members of the Massachusett people) observe. There is also a female allegorical figure of Boston at right.
7. COMMODORE JOHN BARRY MEMORIAL (1949)
The Commodore John Barry Memorial, by John Francis Paramino, was erected in Boston Common in 1949. Extensive restorations were completed in 1977.
8. EDWARD A. FILENE PLAQUE (1959)
A 1959 plaque with a relief portrait of Boston businessman Edward A. Filene – department store owner, credit union founder and philanthropist was made by George Aarons and erected on Boston Common in 1959.
9. PARKMAN PLAZA (1961)
Parkman Plaza in Boston Common was designed by Arcangelo Cascieri and Aido di Biccari in 1961. Adorning the plaza are statues with allegorical figures representing Religion, Industry, and Learning (show in detail below).
10. FROGS OF TADPOLE PLAYGROUND (2003)
Above: Two of the frogs, which were sculpted by David Phillips in 2003. Below: another of the frogs (I don’t think the glove was part of the original sculpture…).