Metal Art



     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?

 Nick Mossman


10 thoughts on “Metal Art

  1. The massive undertaking to put this much detail into something so large had to require a large labor force. Designing and redesigning, scrapping ideas, and pushing forward with others. It’s amazing as you said that 111 years ago, they were able to create this without any software, computers, digital mock ups, and other technology we might take for granted today. I think if the original idea came from the artist, the layout, the scope of something this massive, and the overseeing of details were in his hands, than the artist should receive the full credit. Without his original idea, the other people involved wouldn’t have been working on this. That being said, on a structure this large, they should definitely mention the names of the people who helped assemble and work on this piece.
    I hate to be a purist, but if they were going to clean, polish, and reseal certain areas, than no, the restoring group shouldn’t receive credit. But I think once you has fully disassembled the entire piece and put it back together while replacing parts, the authenticity of the original work is diminished away.
    Not only do the statue’s legs look too short, but his head looks too large, and his arms look disproportionately larger than they should.
    All that being said, that is an impressive work of art.

  2. Wow, what an amazing statue! I really like the background story of the statue. It shows how art can come in any shape or form. It can be hand drawing, painting , sketch or can built something from ones hand out of a metal as well.I think people who worked with him to portray this piece of art should also be mentioned because, after all this wouldn’t have happened with out their cooperation. His legs didn’t look short at first when I saw the picture but as I read the background story then i analyzed the picture and noticed the short legs.

  3. The is really cool and it’s made out of metal so it obviously was not easy to manipulate it’s shape. I think that everyone involved in the creation of this should be credited and not just Moretti. However I don’t think the restorers should get credit. I do think the legs look short, but I think that was intentional.

  4. It amazes me how till this day people manage to put these heavy structures on top of the buildings and mountain hills. I barely get my self up and out of my bed every morning haha I wonder how much maintaining they would have to do, i mean its been up there for for over hundred years. It is remarkable to see these structures stand with a purpose. I really like the story behind it….thanks to son of Jupiter and juno.

  5. How the heck did they get that structure up there?? Restorers should not get credit for it, they did not originally create it. From the angle of the photo it does make the legs distorted but I like that. The arms also look super long too.

  6. Once I saw the full view of the tower and the statue on top, I was just amazed. The scenery around the statue makes it look even more amazing. Moretti did a great job in creating such a good statue that seems like it was meant to be part of that city. Regarding the restores for getting credit, I think they should get credit for what they did and that was restoring. Same for Moretti, he should get credit for what he did not everything. Great piece for sharing, if you hadn’t I would have never known such a work of art existed.

  7. I think Moretti is the only artist here because he was the one who had the idea and started the project. The rest of the contributors do deserve some credit and so do the restorers but the statue should be original to Moretti. When i looked at it first all i could think of was the lord of the rings movies and the statues made by the dwarves who work with stone and iron. Because the legs look short, the overall statue seems short and stocky, like a dwarf. It is very amazing how big and heavy this statue is overall. I read in a source that this is the largest cast iron statue in the world which is pretty amazing.

  8. To create a statue as massive as this one 111 years ago is impressive. The story behind it and where it is placed seems to represent Birmingham, Alabama very well. I believe Moretti is the only artist with creating the piece, but everyone who helped him assemble such a massive statue should get credit as well. When I look at the statue he does look disproportionate in his legs, but also in other areas. I believe with this piece of art the restorers should get some kind of credit because they had to disassemble the piece and put it back together with new parts. Not only that but add a coating to it, so it doesn’t go through the damage it had.

  9. I am very impress at how huge the statue and I also notice that the statue legs are smaller than normal like a dwarf. I do think that the restored should also get some kind of credit for restoring the art pieces. They don’t necessary need to take full credit since they were not the creator of the piece, but the person did repair the art piece so the public could enjoy the image.

  10. I don’t think his legs are too short…I think his head is too big. The body looks proportionate on its own, but the head doesn’t look proportionate to the body. Cool statue none-the-less. Its massive size and weight alone are impressive. I believe Moretti is the only true artist because it was his image, and he is the one who created it. I don’t think art restores should get credit for someone else’s originality.

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