A meditative moment today to revisit “Rosslyn Rapture: A Bronze Sculpture by George McNulty” with a poem about the figure and an acknowledgment that memory can be an imperfect copilot.
Perhaps the sub theme for today’s post should be derivative content? The image above is a digital watercolor derived from an edited and altered photograph of the bronze figure sculpted and gifted by George McNulty. My poem below also re-examines the sculpture, also reimagines the bronze figure, also seeks to illustrate why, how this gift from Rosslyn’s previous owner continues to affect me.
Rosslyn Rapture, Poem
this alchemist's art,
this sculptor's artifact.
No bronze bauble this
daily reminder of
progeny and forebears.
But rapture itself,
lifted with gratitude.
This marbled, mantled
my meandering mind.
— Geo Davis
Baby, No Baby?
In my previous post, I recounted a conversation I had with Jason McNulty about a bronze baby that was present in the sculpture’s upheld hands.
When I gave George McNulty’s son, Jason, a house tour a few year after completing our renovation, he immediately spotted the sculpture.
“What happened to the baby?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I responded, confused.
“The man was originally holding a baby up in the air,” he explained.
It had never even occurred to me that there might have been another part of the sculpture, a part now missing. A baby. That’s what he’s lifting up and celebrating.
I explained to Jason that we had not removed the baby. We had never even seen the baby. Aside from the addition of a marble base, this is exactly how the sculpture looked when it was gifted to us by Jason’s father.
Probably his father had made two versions, Jason suggested, one with a baby, and one without. Or perhaps the baby was cast separately and conjoined afterward. (Source: Rosslyn Rapture: A Bronze Sculpture by George McNulty)
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to dig through old photographs, searching for evidence of the figure holding a baby.
I’ve now realized what I must have previously forgotten (or overlooked). Apparently I’d seen both versions — with and without baby — years before.
There are indeed two versions of the sculpture as Jason suggested. And if you look at the photograph above, you’ll see McNulty‘s sculpture *with baby* on the left side of the mantle above the fireplace. You may need to zoom in a bit, but the darkly, silhouetted figure clearly holds a baby high in the air.
However, our version of the figure, as you can see in the photograph below, holds no baby. Hence my fanciful notion that the figure, a metaphorical, stand-in for the homeowner, is holding aloft — in adulation and gratitude — a magnificent abstraction. Rosslyn rapture!
It’s worth noting that the hands of the figure above betray no evidence that a bronze baby was cut out or ground and sanded off at some point.
The photograph above shows Rosslyn’s entrance hallway about the time we began looking at the property in 2004 or 2005. If you look at the top of the bookshelf, on the right hand side of the photograph, just short of the far end (ie. near middle of photograph) you can just barely make out the sculpture with baby, similar to the one on the mantle piece above. Here’s that same view from the opposite angle.
The sculpture is clearly visible in this photograph of the entrance foyer along the north wall.
Now comes the exciting part. Reviewing my early photographs from visits to this house when we were still considering whether or not to purchase the property (as well as in the photographs that Jason McNulty generously gave me taken during approximately the same timeframe) the bronze sculpture appears in both of the locations here documented: on the bedroom mantle, and on the foyer bookshelf.
But I remembered another location: George McNulty’s basement sculpture workshop.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the sculpture (with baby) just left of the G. McNulty, Sculptor sign that is propped against the back wall?
Here’s a slightly different angle, zoomed in a little tighter…
In both of the two images above, and there’s some thing else that might catch your eye. If you look directly to the left of the sign, I’ve described, you will see a head. And behind the head? I believe that squinting a little bit and looking closely, you’ll see the empty arms of a second sculpture with no baby.
And, so it would seem, Jason McNulty was correct. Two versions were made. So I will choose to imagine our figure holding high, not a baby, but the glorious abstraction of HOME.
What do you think?