Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther, by August Kiss
Altes Museum, Berlin
Here at the library, we are sometimes asked questions for which we can’t find answers. Generally we are happy that we have given it our best shot, exhausted all of our resources and, usually, referred the customer on to someone who may be able to find more information. Because we are the kinds of people who work in libraries (read: nerds) sometimes we can’t let a question go and we continue to keep our eye out for anything relating to this elusive quest. One such question that has plagued me since I started here back in the cardaceous period (when card catalogs roamed the earth) is the question of what happened to the Amazon statue that once stood in front of the Memorial Park Library. We have been asked about this statue innumerable times and we were especially driven to find an answer when Brian Brennan was writing our official centennial history. We still have no definitive answer, but we feel we may be close.
There was an excellent article written about the Amazon sculpture by Daniel Lindley for the May issue of the magazine Stephen (page 28), which is put out by the Epcor Centre. In it he quotes from the Parks Department reports of Superintendent Richard Iverson in which he lays out his plans for the development of Central Park, proposing elevation changes, mass plantings, the building of a bandstand and summer houses and the incorporation of two statues, the Boer War Memorial and an “Amazon Group”. Many of Iverson’s plans were executed and we know that there was a statue of an Amazon, riding a horse which was being attacked by a panther, installed in the flower bed in front of the library. You can see the rear view of the statue on the far right of this postcard of the library.
Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1920?
Postcards from the Past, PC 1989
This statue was reportedly a copy of a famous statue by August Kiss, made for the entrance of the Altes Museum in Berlin. A copy was made from the original for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Other copies appeared in various places. Our Amazon was a smaller, slightly altered, copy of the original. As described to the board by Superintendent Iverson, the statue was of an “Amazonian lady mounted on her trusty cayuse when a panther or some such animal started to chew the pony’s head off about the neck, whereupon the lady deftly inserted a spear into a section of his anatomy where it was likely to do the most harm. The board thought this was very fine but James Marr, with a twinkle in his eye, suggested the lady should be shown ‘wi’ a kilt. But it is likely that the lady’s chief adornment will be bronze.” (CH Mar 12, 1912)
The fate of our Amazon was sealed in 1922 when the I.O.D.E. received permission to place a memorial stature by Coeur-de-Lion McCarthy in the park. William Reader, the Superintendent at the time, suggested that it be installed near where the Amazon stood. He proposed that the Amazon be moved to Tompkins Park. By 1924, the Amazon and her “incongruous” perch were gone. As you may notice in the postcard below, a cannon was installed on the front lawn as well. This cannon (and its companions) had been captured from the German army. There were several in the city including one at the gates of Riley Park. It seems as though the ethos of the time preferred arms to bosoms.
Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1933
Postcards from the Past, PC 943
So what of the Amazon? The recommendation was to move it to Tompkins Park, but somehow it ended up in storage. In 1934 it was mounted on a piece of Tindall stone left over from the building of the Post Office and then placed in South Mount Royal Park where it was subsequently “mutilated and disfigured beyond repair by vandals.” This does not bode well for our Amazon. Did she end up in a landfill? Was she sold for scrap? We hope to find some more information about her fate so if you know anything please get in touch.