Famed sculptor Paul Manship's statues languish in Loretto
Silenus, an 8-foot tall limestone statue, is one of a dozen art deco statues made by noted sculptor Paul Manship in 1918. This statue, one of two that remains at Loretto, is deteriorating rapidly.
The Dryad statue is missing a hand in which she held a flower, which is also missing. This 8-foot-tall statue was designed and sculpted in 1918 by Paul Manship. It stands in a garden in Loretto. The Dryad's calm repose and spatial harmony reflect Manship's signature style. Original Filename: thomas_statue3.jpg Original Filename: manship2.jpg
This limestone Dryad statue, which is missing a hand, was designed and sculpted in 1918 by Paul Manship.
Silenus, who holds grape vines in his hand, is one of a dozen art deco statues made by Paul Manship, considered the finest sculptor of his generation. Manship's design of these figures was influenced by a trip he took to Greece and the Korai figures he saw at the Acropolis.
This detail shot of Silenus shows the cracks in the limestone statue.
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A century ago, sculptor Paul Manship exhibited his work in New York City and sold all of the 96 bronzes he had created while studying in Italy.
After that auspicious debut, many people considered him America's best sculptor. Curators and critics saw him as the direct artistic descendant of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the Beaux Arts artist who memorialized Civil War leaders, including the gilded figure of General William Tecumseh Sherman astride a horse in New York's Central Park.
Manship's most recognizable work is the golden Prometheus that adorns a Rockefeller Center fountain. But two of his long-forgotten figures still stand in a large, formal garden at a Central Pennsylvania estate in Loretto built by steel tycoon Charles Schwab.
Silenus is a bearded man who holds a bunch of grapes in his right hand. Dryad, a tree nymph associated with oak trees, usually holds a flower or oak leaf in her right hand but it is missing. The only two remaining examples of a dozen statues Manship made for the garden, they were installed in 1918. Cracks have appeared in the 8-foot-tall limestone sculptures.
Faber Donoughe, an art appraiser, visited his family's graves in Cambria County in 1976. The Loretto native wandered into the Schwab garden he knew from childhood. By this time, he had a keen aesthetic sense and was struck by the two figures' art deco qualities.
For the past 36 years, Mr. Donoughe, who lives in New York City, has appealed repeatedly to the Franciscan order that owns the garden to move the statues out of the harsh winter weather on Cresson Mountain so they can be preserved. Now 72, he estimates that he has contacted the Franciscans 50 times, including site visits, letters and phone calls.
"I was blown away when I figured out that Paul Manship had done the statues in Loretto," said Mr. Donoughe. "Schwab wanted to impress people. He didn't want them to think they were in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania."
Just across the road from the garden stands the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.
"Their mission includes preserving American art in the area. It's kind of ironic," Mr. Donoughe said.
The Rev. Malachi Van Tassell is treasurer of the Franciscan friars' province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which includes the friars who live in the stone mansion Schwab designed as a summer estate. He teaches accounting at St. Francis University in Loretto.
In an email sent this week, he wrote that the order has been "exploring opportunities to preserve the Paul Manship statues located on our property. As a nonprofit organization, our projects are often prioritized based on available funds. .... We are open to the possibility of a donor or donors assisting us with this project."
By the time he died in 1939, Schwab had lost most of his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. His estate was sold in 1942, and the Friends of St. Francis College bought most of the property, including the stone mansion and gardens for $32,500. Ten of the 12 original Manship statues were sold, too.
The two figures in Loretto, Mr. Donoughe said, are unique because "they are exactly where they were placed originally."
David Gariff, a lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., said Manship's statues are characterized by "beautiful linear rhythms." The figures in the Loretto garden, he added, "have a kind of Greek archaic feeling to them. They are a bit different than we normally expect from Manship. In that respect, it would be a shame to lose them."
"If they want to preserve the works," he added, "they should at least move them inside."
First Published December 15, 2012 12:00 am