Arts Everyday Living: More Angels in Art This Week—An Angel over Washington

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It may be surprising but angels do exist in Washington, D.C., at least in the form of art.  As someone who has known the city for years, I’ve encountered  them at monuments throughout the capital, from Union Station to the National Cathedral. But only recently, did I discover the winged statue of Victory in the President’s Park near the White House.

I had walked by its location multiple times, without noticing, always rushing on to another destination. Yet, on this perfect day in September, I had brought a camera and was looking for a photo opportunity.  Then suddenly, I saw Victory’s golden reflection emerging from the heights of a tree,

 

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guiding me across the grass to the towering granite column commemorating the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force and its soldiers who fought in World War I,

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where she stood triumphant, 80 feet above me, lifting a gilded flag hopefully of peace, not war—while extending blessings on the fallen.

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Their 5,599 names are inscribed on the plates at the base.  Was each man honored on October 4, 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge, General John Pershing, and 6,000 veterans attended the memorial’s dedication?  Did someone actually read the list of these military dead on that long ago day?

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Daniel Chester French, who was commissioned to design Victory in 1921, had spent the last decade creating his marble colossus of Abraham Lincoln only a short distance away on the Mall.

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However, Victory, in contrast to French’s seated Lincoln, moves with the agility and elegance of a dancer, no matter what the angle.

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Sources: The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. by James M. Goode, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1974 & Website of National Park Service on the First Division Monument.

First Division Monument, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), sculptor and Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) and Cass Gilbert, Jr., architects,1924, President’s Park South, Washington, D.C.

Note: There are also other additions of the war dead at the memorial from World War II (1957), Vietnam War (1977), and Desert Storm (1995).

Photographs courtesy of Joan Hart

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