War and peace (1948) Gérard Héman

photo 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 above and next to the main entrance large facade reliefs of him were placed. Héman had brought over large blocks of granite and a number of hackers from Sweden. In his studio they carved a 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 individual figures bear witness to inspiration from Baroque art. On the far right is the figure of a dead man. In addition, Death itself is depicted, in the familiar guise of a skeleton with a scythe in a robe. At Death's feet a semi-reclining, sleeping or dead figure. Immediately to the right of the window is a helmeted rider on a rearing horse (possibly the god of war Mars), who cuts the ornament at the edge of the window with a sword. This group depicts War, Death and Madness. In an image of a preliminary design, this company contained another emaciated child, possibly representing Hunger. On the left is a nymph-like female figure, sitting on horseback with a palm branch in hand. To her left rises a graceful, naked maiden, probably handing a bunch of grapes to a kneeling man. A giant cornucopia completes the scene. The meaning of this is respectively Peace, Fertility and Prosperity. Due to the distance, this is unfortunately difficult to perceive for the spectator at street level. With the 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 engaged in woodcarving from a young age, which is why the influence of German Baroque folk art is noticeable in his work. Various of his works 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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