I recently visited Birmingham, Alabama. While there I visited the statue of Vulcan the Roman God of the Forge. A forge is where metal is heated and hammered into useful items. This is the world’s largest cast iron statue. It currently sits on top of a 123-foot tower on the top of Red mountain looking over Birmingham a city built on iron mines and the refining of iron ore. Iron ore, limestone, and coal are all contained in the mountain where he is displayed. These are the three things needed to produce clean iron.
The city commissioned Giuseppe Moretti to create a statue of Vulcan for the 1904 Worlds Fair to be held in St. Louis. Moretti began by building a two-foot tall clay model. Then he created a life size clay model with a wooden structure inside in an abandoned church in New Jersey. It was so large it had to be built in two pieces because the final statue would be 56-feet tall. The next step was to make a plaster cast and sent it to Birmingham Steel and Iron Co. to be cast. There would be a total of twenty-one pieces assembled then dedicated on June 7, 1904.
In mythology, Vulcan was the son of Jupiter and Juno, who were beautiful like all the other gods, but Vulcan was the only ugly god. He was cast from Mt. Olympus to work as a blacksmith in Greece because he was so ugly. Oddly he married Venus the goddess of love and beauty. Moretti considered this when he designed the statue; he intentionally made him unattractive and made his legs too short for his body. Vulcan won grand prize in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy where he was displayed. Moretti and the foundry that cast him, also won medals at the fair independent of the main prize.
Among other things, I’m a welder and appreciate anything made of metal. This statue has a feeling of strength and endurance. I was so impressed when I read that the statue is 56-feet tall and weighs 101,200 pounds. This brought me back to Moretti. He designed the statue and sculpted that first two-foot tall figure, but so many others had to have their hands in the process from that point on. That was a huge undertaking 111 years ago. After the fair in St. Louis it was returned to Birmingham where it still stands today. In the late 90’s it needed a restoration due to poor drainage and had considerable damage. Vulcan was disassembled and repaired with some new parts and a zinc coating to protect it from the elements. Then reassembled on top of his tower overlooking the city he represents so well.
1. Is Moretti the only artist or should everyone involved be credited?
2. Should the restorers get credit?
3. Do his legs look too short to you?