Never forget how much you can learn about a thing just by poking around it, inspecting it, examining it up close from every angle. You might even find the solution to a mystery.
So it was when I decided to take a close-up look at some of those weird statues that recently intrigued me. Out near Elston and Montrose, two of the water carrier statues bore the crumbling inscription of Henri Studio, Chicago. Ah hah! Perhaps some trace of this obscure, forgotten studio might yet be found amid the vast informational detritus of the Internet.
Henri Studio is, by their own account, a large and very busy cast statuary company, a notion reinforced by their 200+ page catalog. The company was founded 60 years ago by an Italian immigrant from the Tuscany region – just in time to start supplying statuary for the mid-century building boom.
And our lovely lady here with the jug on her back, it turns out, is the Biblical Rebecca, offering water to Abraham’s servant. Rebecca at the Well is a subject of statuary and painting with a long, long history.
There doesn’t appear to be any precise precedent for the statue’s design; as far as I can tell, it’s an original work. Furthermore, the statue is far from a clone. Details vary from statue to statue, such as the position of the right arm, or the nature of the vessel in her left hand.
Rebecca’s most frequent competitor is Hebe the Cupbearer, a minor Greek goddess whose popularity as a garden statue extends far beyond Chicago.
Just what these two have to do with modern apartment living remains a bit unclear to me, though it’s certainly further evidence that Modernism was never some monolith force stamping out all traces of historicism. Heretics remained at large amongst the population, and they were in the garden!