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Boston’s Quest Eternal and The Ether Monument Essay

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Updated: Oct 29th, 2021

Boston is a great city that can proud of its pieces of public art. In the current paper, I will consider the two of them, namely, Boston’s Quest Eternal and The Ether Monument.

Humanity has always been seeking knowledge and depicting this thirst in this or that way. The two sculptures under consideration stand to represent humanity’s noble pursuit of knowledge (the first statue) and the moment of getting the knowledge needed (the second one). The theme of knowledge that the two works are concerned with unites them and shows the problem through the two different perspectives.

The 5-ton bronze statue Quest Eternal stands next to the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center on Boylston Street. It is created by Donald Harcourt De Lue (1897-1988, born in Boston). The sculpture demonstrates links to both Greco-Roman and late Renaissance sculptors. The figure is composed of mannerist proportions, its musculature is articulated. The sculpture presents a classically strong man, his muscled left arm stretches skyward. It points to the top of the Prudential Tower, where a glassed-in Sky Walk on the 50th floor affords views of the White Mountains humped up in the north; the Atlantic’s blue horizon stretched across the east; and there in the west, almost in the shadow of the Tower, one can peer into Fenway Park (Carbone). Jonathan L. Fairbanks, Emeritus Curator of American Figurative Sculpture Catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, claims that De Lue was inspired by the mature Michelangelo and “emulated the exuberant gestures and energetic composition such as those found at Pergamum” (Donald de Lue). The author himself states that his work is traditional, but at the same time it is a tradition of his own (Donald de Lue).

The Ether Monument stands in a prominent spot in the Boston Public Garden. It is a 40-foot tall monument that commemorates the first use of ether as an anesthetic under the Etherdome at Massachusetts General Hospital On October 16, 1846. The statue was erected in 1868 when the ether debate still continued. It does not commemorate the ether inventor, Thomas G. Morton, but presents a “Good Samaritan” holding the unconscious body of a young man. The statue suggests that the ether breakthrough took place in classical Greece but not in 19th century Boston (Ether Monument). Under the monument’s Gothic arches four reliefs are hidden. They show an operation under anesthesia and an angel of mercy that descends to relieve a suffering figure. The inscription from the Book of Revelation reads: “Neither shall there be any more pain.” (Pathetic Fallacy) Also, there are four lion-headed fountains at the monument’s base that underwent restoration in 2006.

The two monuments are better viewed from a distance. They both are majestic and inspiring. Everyone who admires the majesty cannot resist the overwhelming desire to solve the riddle of human knowledge. To understand its origin and essence and to improve it – that is what the monuments inspire their admirers to do.

Along with the classical motifs and the theme that unites the sculptures, they differ in the meaning that they have. If the first work is a symbol of a human’s desire to know, the second one symbolizes the result of human strivings. The Ether Monument is the only monument to drug existing in the world. I am inclined to think that it stands to denote that though there are no limits to human knowledge one should always think of the consequences that the knowledge might bring.

Works Cited

Carbone, G. M. “Loyalty to the Red Sox is the Tie that Binds Generations.” 2008. Web.

“Donald De Lue.” 2008. Web.

“Ether Monument.” 2008. Web.

“Pathetic Fallacy.” 2008. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Boston’s Quest Eternal and The Ether Monument." October 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bostons-quest-eternal-and-the-ether-monument/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Boston’s Quest Eternal and The Ether Monument'. 29 October.

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