Saturday, August 16, 2014

Venus Elsewhere

As the debate over the proper location of Venus was heating up earlier this week, a reader, in an email, pointed out that ours was not the only Venus fountain in New York. There is one in Wolcott, just west of Syracuse, and it is the town's pride and joy.

The statue is located in the Village of Wolcott, at the four corners. It was installed in September 1913, exactly thirty years after Hudson's Venus fountain was completed in September 1883. When our Venus fountain was installed in 1883, the Hudson Evening Register described it as "exhibiting in the most effective manner the power of our water supply, and proving that it can be put to ornamental as well as useful purposes." Similarly, the fountain in Wolcott was installed with the advent of a public water system in the village. It was thought that there should be some kind of public drinking fountain "for both man and beast" at the site of the old town pump, and the fountain was apparently meant to serve that purpose.

The statue in Wolcott, according to, "depicts Venus rising from the sea, being lifted from the depths by two cupids and two fish. This statue is made of cast iron and is one of only eight still known to exist in North America."

The statue in Wolcott, without the lamp above her head, is the spitting image of our Venus. (That's our Venus at the left above, Wolcott's at the right.) Investigating the claim that Wolcott's statue is "one of only eight still known to exist in North America" led to the discovery of a book called Zinc Sculpture in America 1850-1950, by Carol A. Grissom. (Although Wolcott claims their Venus is cast iron, and someone at the last meeting about Seventh Street Park reported that our Venus was made from lead, it seems they are both made from zinc, a material introduced for statuary in the mid-19th century and used to produce "modestly priced serial sculpture displayed throughout the nation on fountains, public monuments, and war memorials.")

Here is the description of the statue from Grissom's book:
VENUS RISING FROM THE SEA, nearly naked, holds a swirl of drapery between her upraised right and her left hand at her hips. The sculpture was designed by Charles Cordier (1827-1925) for a Parisian fountain featuring the triumph of Amphitrite (1862). A similar sculpture was modeled in Berlin by Friedrich Drake, but no copies of it are known.
The statue was installed on a fountain in the Horticulture Building at the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and it was popular, with eighteen copies listed here. It was available with and without two cherubs riding dolphins at Venus's feet. . . .
What's interesting is that Hudson's Venus was installed on the fountain in the Public Square ten years before it appeared in the Horticulture Building at the Columbia Exposition in Chicago. Hudson was a trendsetter! 

Grissom visited our Venus in 2001, and here's the description of it that appears in her list:
NEW YORK, HUDSON, 444 Warren Street; previously corner of Sixth and Columbia Streets; before 1976, Seventh Street Park
Aphrodite Fountain (between 1878 and 1900)
Cast zinc; white paint
In storage awaiting treatment (now filled with concrete); previously on a concrete pad at Sixth and Columbia Streets; originally installed atop a two-pan cast-iron fountain at the center of the park
Thirteen years later, our Venus is still "in storage awaiting treatment."


Thanks to Lisa Walsh Makas for inspiring this investigation


  1. Thank you, Carole and Lisa! This is absolutely remarkable! --peter m.

  2. I've said it before and i say it again.
    Bring back our 7th Street fountain.
    Now, where do we begin ?

    1. I would say, Dini and Windle, we begin with an RFQ to identify a skilled artisan (or skilled artisans) who can restore the statue and reproduce the shell marble foundation and then get from this person (or these people) a reasonably accurate estimate of the cost.

  3. Thanks Carole for the investigation - particularly the comparison of our Venus and the one in Wolcott. I didn't realize they were identical except for the lamp! Very cool!

  4. Really good reporting, Carole - I'm all for Venus rising again.