Untitled (1948) Gérard Héman

Otto Snoek
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 façade reliefs were placed above and next to the main entrance. This work did not receive an official title, but connects iconographically to the roof frame. In the center above the entrance is Mercury, the god of commerce. He is flanked on the left by Vrouwe Verkeer, recognizable by anchor, wing and wheel. And on the right by the masculine personification of the Industry with wheels and tools as attributes. On the left side of the portal the symbols Agriculture and Livestock are shown by means of Flora (the goddess of flowers), a cow with a child on its back that is picking apples from a tree, and a peacock. On the right side of the portal, Zeevaart en Visserij is represented by fish, seagulls, a sailing boat and a unicorn, with another child on it. The presence of children can be explained as a reference to posterity, so to the future. That this is mainly about the glorious future of Rotterdam, is clear from Héman's other decorative stones, which can be seen just below the roof frame. This shows images of waves and aquatic animals that 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 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 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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