Four new bronze statues inside Utah's renovated state Capitol help bring new life to the rotunda, where the beaux-arts figures fill long-empty niches, reflecting allegorical themes connecting Utah's past and present.
The Capitol, rededicated Friday, opened to the general public for the first time Saturday, and the bronze works were eye-catching magnets for many of those participating in the tours.
When the Capitol was built in 1916, architect Richard K.A. Kletting recommended that rotunda sculptures illustrate values and ideas important to Utahns. As part of the four-year remodeling and reconstruction, a California group of sculptors designed and cast the rotunda's four figures, titled "Arts & Education," "Science & Technology," "Land & Community" and "Immigration & Settlement."
The beaux-arts style, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, complements the Capitol, which itself exhibits the style, which the German-born Kletting studied in Paris.
Jonah Hendrickson, one of the sculptors and an owner of Daub Firmin Hendrickson Sculpture Group, the Oakland, Calif., firm that won the $380,000 project, said Kletting's beaux-arts influences show in the rotunda's resemblance to one of Paris' original train stations, the famed d'Orsay museum.
In the niche with the "Arts & Education" figures, an adult woman wearing a wreath and holding a large book of literature representing the canon of Western civilization, stands next to a young girl who holds the beginnings of a wreath and is being tutored by the adult. The idea is she will someday take the adult's place as an educated member of a civilized community.
Each niche has two figures, with the taller one standing about 11 feet.
In the "Land & Community" niche, a man stands next to a young Rocky Mountain elk, holding a young aspen tree in one hand and a beehive in the other. Hendrickson said the concept is that the man is a steward of the land the flora and fauna and is passing on the importance of taking care of the land, its animals and all growing things.
The "Science & Technology" niche has an adult scientist and a young man representing technology looking up to him. The young man has built an aqueduct to carry water to make the desert livable. Also in evidence is a wagon wheel, representing the primary mode of transportation for early settlers.
"Immigration & Settlement" shows a young girl holding a globe with Utah facing out, symbolizing that all are welcome in Utah from anywhere in the world. The adult woman, gently leading the girl into the rotunda, symbolizes the spirit of immigration, demonstrating that society needs young people to be healthy.Hendrickson said the 2,000-pound sculptures had to be carefully moved up the Capitol's stairs to the rotunda. A crane was built inside the rotunda to move them into position, as the floor of the rotunda would not support a forklift or other equipment.