Civilization 2


--From a brochure in the Library’s Archives.

 “In the Stair Hall leading to the second floor on the Fifth Street side, stands Lawrie’s statue of Civilization, and from head to toe, she silently testifies to the great civilizations, and the contributions made by each of them.  On either side of the staircase, she is guarded by two spectacular sphinxes.”

Librarian and writer Faith Holmes Hyers explained these works--and what they mean, in a 1930 article in California Arts &Architecture Magazine,    

“No less symbolic and eloquent of the meaning and purpose of the library are the three marble sculptures which are drawing many visitors to the Fifth Street stair hall of the Central Library.  Civilization “like a jewel”, symbolizing all that books represent, is guarded by two veiled Sphinxes, representing the hidden mysteries of knowledge yet unattained by man.

The central statue is of rich-toned Italian marble with white face, hands and feet, with trimmings, cape, head-dress, staff and panel in her gown of copper.  The installation was an exacting task, as the statue was delivered in nineteen pieces, the body shaft weighing 3400 pounds, the head 500 pounds, and the metal draperies 500 additional pounds.

The symbolism of the figure is harmoniously and beautifully worked out. Civilization is crowned with the symbols of library, City and state — miniature library building, flanked by two angels and surmounted by the California bear and star.”

Hyers continues:

“In her left hand is the used as a symbol of enlightenment throughout the library carvings), tip with a small winged Pegasus for inspiration. The torch rests upon a turtle, representing dominion over land and sea. In the copper panel of her draperies we may trace the history of civilization. Turning now to the reclining figures of the spaces flanking the stairway, we find that the zone wrought in black marble imported from Belgium, the somber color at into the feeling of ministry inherent in the figure. The calm, serene beauty of the face is intensified by the elaborate metal head– dress suggestive of Assyria as well as Egypt.”


“Civilization’s gown carries symbols of ancient and modern civilizations.  

The Buffalo, the Covered Wagon and the Liberty Bell for the United States of America

The Serpent Head for Maya

Shiva for India

The Dragon for China

The Wolf with Romulus and Remus for Rome

The Lion Gate of the Palace of Minos and the Parthenon for Minoan and Grecian Civilizations

The Tablets for Judea

The Winged Bull for Babylonia

The Ship for Phoenicia

The Pyramids for Egypt”

And at the very bottom, very creatively,

“A Blank for the Unknown Ages of Man”







Exploring and Documenting the Lost Sculptural Legacy of America’s Machine-Age Michelangelo Welcome and Thank You for Visiting!
Sitemap Home Galleries Articles Products Contact About Blog Biography
Share on Facebook Share on Google Bookmarks Share on Twitter Share on Stumble Upon Share on Delicious Share on Tumblr Share on Digg Share on LinkedIn Share on Reddit Share on Newsvine Share on LiveJournal Share via e-mail Print

Hover over the Galleries tab to see more pictures.

The sitemap lets you easily see ALL of what’s here.