Monday, January 8, 2007

Peter Stuyvesant: OMOM Essay 16

After two drafts of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan I still had no "About the Sculpture" section for this essay. Finally I asked myself not "What should I write?" but "Why is it so difficult for me to write about this sculpture?" As often happens, asking the right question was more than half the battle. I realized that the style of the sculpture, specifically the texture, bores me so much that I'd prefer to look at almost any sculpture in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan rather than this one. In the photo you can see that the sculptor has used the same mushy texture for Stuyvesant's face, hair and jacket. Historically the man to blame for this is the French sculptor Rodin, whom I discuss in Essay 50 (Jefferson).

Stuyvesant as governor-general of New Netherlands from 1647 to 1664 was anything but boring - see Washington Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York (excerpts on the Forgotten Delights site), or, more seriously, Shorto's well-written Island at the Center of the World. As a variation on the usual third-person narrative, I tried to capture the immediacy of Stuyvesant's situation in 1664 by writing "About the Subject" in the second person: "Imagine you're …" This technique could get old quickly - I only did it once.

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