Edinburgh Stories and Tips

Paolozzi's Big Foot and Hand Sculpture

The hand of a giant Photo, Edinburgh, Scotland

The street sculptures outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh are some of the weirdest I have encountered. The first time I saw them was just before I entered the cathedral. My husband didn’t want to enter the church so he stayed behind trying to figure out what they symbolised. I hadn’t a clue and from the steps of the cathedral, they just looked like giant sized lumps of black, shiny metal.

After I had finished my tour of the cathedral I went out to look at these three statues that were designed by Scottish artist and sculptor, Eduardo Paolozzi. They were placed in this position in 1991 on the pavement opposite the church and at the top of Leith Walk. The piece of work is called, The Manuscript of Monte Casino, this is where the artist’s Italian family came from.

In the Second World War German troops invaded the town and took over the famous abbey, British and American Forces were unable to defend the town, Polish soldiers stepped in, many, many lives were lost but in the end the Poles were victorious. I know this from the inscriptions on a beautiful monument situated in Warsaw commemorating the bravery of the Polish 2nd Corps.

Paolozzi’s set sculpture isn’t as beautiful as the one in Warsaw but it is certainly interesting.The three pieces consist of a hand holding a spherical object, a foot with split dimensions and a large object with a metal bar running through the centre. The three piece sculpture symbolises a journey or pilgrimage. The hand is outstretched, ready to give or receive hospitality.The foot represents travel and if you look closely at the hand you will see two locusts, one on top of the other. This may be a biblical reference to the swarm of locusts in the Bible.

The statues do have a surreal quality about them but at the same time I can see the classical outlines. They are very large in size and I should imagine extremely heavy. I believe they were cast in a foundry in Germany.

Paolozzi was born in Leith, and perhaps he wanted the sculptures placed near where he used to live at Crown Place, near to the old station. In 1943 he was a student at Edinburgh College of Art and called up for army service the next year. Later on he went to Slade School of Fine Art in London and then worked in Paris for three years from 1947 to 1949.

In 2005, Paolozzi was awarded an Honorary Degree by Edinburgh University and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. He was 81 years of age when he died in 2005.

If you would like to know more about this fascinating sculptor then pop into the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh where you will find a recreation of his art studio. Don't miss out on viewing this three piece sculptur either, it is fascinating.

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