Untitled (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. This work was not given an official title, but connects iconographically to the roof molding. Mercury, the god of trade, is depicted centrally above the entrance. He is flanked on the left by Lady Traffic, recognizable by anchor, wing and wheel. And on the right by the male personification of Industry with wheels and tools as attributes. On the left side of the portal, the symbols Agriculture and Livestock are displayed by means of Flora (the goddess of flowers), a cow with a child on her back picking apples from a tree, and a peacock. On the right side of the portal, Maritime and Fisheries is depicted by means of fish, seagulls, a sailing ship and a unicorn, with another child on it. The presence of children can be explained as a reference to the offspring, ie to the future. The fact that this mainly concerns the glorious future of Rotterdam, is made clear by the other decorative stones by Héman, which can be seen just below the roof molding. It shows images of waves and aquatic animals, which symbolize the economic fertility of the Maas. On the left flank of the building, on the side of the river, there is another reference to the harbor by a triton and a mermaid with the coat of arms of Rotterdam in between. On the city side is the coat of arms of Amsterdam, flanked by a faun and a nymph.

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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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