War and peace (1948) Gérard Héman

Jannes Linders
About the artwork

In the five years after the war, the reconstruction was largely achieved through the efforts of the large banking companies, which started almost simultaneously with the construction of monumental buildings in the city center. The brick building of the Rotterdamsche Bankvereeniging (Robaver), a design by architect Mertens, had the most pretensions of the new bank buildings. A private competition was organized for the exterior facade, which was won by sculptor Gérard Héman. He made a facade ornament for the roof frame of the building War and peace, but also large facade reliefs of his were placed above and next to the main entrance. Héman had brought large blocks of granite and a number of hackers from Sweden. In his studio they chopped an 14 meter long relief, which was applied to the roof in 1948. Both the symmetrical composition of the sculpture group, centered around an oval roof window, as well as the figures individually bear witness to Baroque art inspiration. On the far right is the figure of a dead man. In addition, Death itself is depicted, in the familiar shape of a skeleton with a scythe wrapped in a pipe. At the feet of Death a half-lying, sleeping or dead figure. Immediately to the right of the window is a helmeted rider on a prancing horse (possibly the war god Mars), who cuts through the ornament at the edge of the window with a sword. This group depicts the War, Death and Madness. On a picture of a preliminary design there was another emaciated child in this group, possibly depicting the Hunger. On the left a nymph-like female figure is shown, with a palm branch in his hand on horseback. A graceful, naked lady rises to her left, probably handing a bunch of grapes to a kneeling man. A giant horn of plenty closes the scene. The meaning of this is respectively Peace, Fertility and Prosperity. Unfortunately for the viewer at street level, this whole is difficult to see due to the distance. With Han Richters' sculpture group at the emergency shops on the Coolsingel and the Rotterdam street figures by Johan van Berkel at the Minervahuis on the Meent, the early reconstruction completed a triptych of unofficial war memorials.

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About the artist

Gérard Héman (Duisburg, 1914 - Rotterdam, 1992) was a sculptor, painter and draftsman who attended the art academy in Rotterdam. He was born in Duisburg, but later moved to Schiebroek. Héman was involved in wood carving at a young age, so that the influence of German baroque folk art is noticeable in his work. Various works by him have been realized in the public space of Rotterdam. The best-known works are facade ornaments on the former bank building on Coolsingel.

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