Untitled (1958) Luigi de Lerma
At the corner of the Schiedamse Vest and the Westblaak, the Dutch Overseas Bank opened its new branch in Rotterdam in 1958; it concerned a branch of the head office in Amsterdam. This bank originated from the Nederlandsche Bank for South Africa and was politically neutral, that is to say not pro-British and not pro-African. The company had a South African orientation and focused on wholesale, such as in port cities such as Rotterdam. The client and architect Jan Hendriks asked Luigi de Lerma to decorate the facade. This Italian entrepreneur and ceramist, who lives in the Netherlands, had already impressed a number of exhibitions in Rotterdam, for example during the 'E55'. The design for his façade plastic was inspired by a long tradition of Dutch anchor decorations, but also made use of signs from the runic script. The ornament is made up of various rune characters that refer to earth, water, sun and the tree of life. The lower sign represents the earth and the curved line above it represents the sign for water: together they symbolize sea trade. In the circle the wave lines represent the Rotte and the two vertical lines and the broad horizontal line represent the damming of the Rotte. The circle is the emblem of the sun and the source of life. The tree of life comprises the central sign and connects it with the upper sign, the sign for man, symbol of human power, illuminated by the all-seeing eye of God.
Luigi de Lerma (Reggio, Italy, 1907 - Utrecht, 1965) studied majolica technology at the renowned Istituto della Ceramica in Faenza and then worked as a decorator at potteries. In 1928 he was commissioned to revitalize the neglected ceramic industry on the then Italian island of Rhodes as co-director, where he married a Dutch lady. In 1935 they settled in Groenekan, near Utrecht, where they started to create a ceramic oeuvre. They worked on assignment throughout the Netherlands. After her death in 1961, he stopped ceramics and started painting. He continued to make decorative monumental art on buildings, with ornaments reminiscent of Italian folk art, many sailing ships, fish, flower vines.