Prometheus (Manship)

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Rockefeller Center Prometheus.jpg
The sculpture in 2013
ArtistPaul Manship
Year1934 (1934)
Dimensions5.5 m (18 ft)
LocationNew York City, New York, United States
Coordinates40°45′31″N 73°58′43″W / 40.75872°N 73.97859°W / 40.75872; -73.97859Coordinates: 40°45′31″N 73°58′43″W / 40.75872°N 73.97859°W / 40.75872; -73.97859

Prometheus is a 1934 gilded, cast bronze sculpture by Paul Manship, located above the lower plaza at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City.[1] Created by Roman Bronze Works in Queens, the statue is 18 ft (5.5 m) tall and weighs 8 tons.[2] It depicts the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus, who was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene, brought fire to mankind by stealing it from the Chariot of the Sun, which resulted in Zeus chaining Prometheus and sending an eagle to prey upon his continually regenerating liver.[3]


The recumbent figure is in a 60-by-16-foot (18.3 by 4.9 m) fountain basin in front of a gray, rectangular wall in the Lower Plaza,[4] located in the middle of Rockefeller Center.[5][6] The ring – representing the heavens – is inscribed with the signs of the zodiac, which are labeled on the inside of the ring. Through the ring, he falls toward the earth (the mountain) and the sea (the pool).[7]

The inscription – a paraphrase from Aeschylus – on the granite wall behind, reads: "Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends."[4][1]: 105 

Prometheus is considered the main artwork of Rockefeller Center, and is one of the complex's more well-known works of art. The seasonal Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is erected above the statue every winter. During the rest of the year, Prometheus serves as the main aesthetic draw in the lower plaza's outdoor restaurant.[1]: 105 

Associated artworks[edit]

The statue was flanked by Manship's Youth and Maiden (the "Mankind Figures"), occupying the granite shelves to the rear.[8] (The shelves are now topped by plants.) They were relocated to Palazzo d'Italia from 1939 to 1984, because Manship thought they did not fit visually.[4][1]: 101  Originally gilded, they were given a brown patina when restored. They were moved to the staircase above the skating rink in 2001, as if they are "announcing Prometheus".[9]

Four Prometheus maquettes exist: one at the Smithsonian Institution's Smithsonian American Art Museum,[10] one at the Minnesota Museum of Art, and two in private collections.[11] A full-scale replica existed Grand Indonesia Shopping Town recreated by Legacy Entertainment in Entertainment District's Fountain Atrium located in Jakarta, but it has been removed in late 2019 due to the new LED Screen display.


The model for Prometheus was Leonardo Nole (c. 1907–1998), an Italian-American lifeguard from New Rochelle who modeled for college art classes. He spent three months posing for this assignment in the spring of 1933. After World War II, he became a postal worker.[12]

Manship's assistant Angelo Colombo did most of the detail work when Nole was posing. Henry Kreis, another assistant, sculpted the hair.[N 1]

Ray Van Cleef posed for the original small-scale rendering.[15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kreis"[13] was misspelled as "Krist" in Nole's obituary in The New York Times.[12][14]
  1. ^ a b c d Roussel, Christine (2006). The Art of Rockefeller Center. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 101, 105. ISBN 978-0393060829.
  2. ^ "Statue in Center Plaza: Giant Figure of Prometheus Set at Rockefeller Fountain" (PDF). New York Times. 1934. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  3. ^ "Prometheus". Rockefeller Center. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Adams, Janet (1985). "Rockefeller Center Designation Report" (PDF). City of New York; New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. p. 168. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  5. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1939). New York City Guide. New York: Random House. p. 336. ISBN 978-1-60354-055-1. (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City.)
  6. ^ Krinsky, Carol H. (1978). Rockefeller Center. Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0195024043.
  7. ^ "The story of Prometheus". Rock History.
  8. ^ "Photo showing the original setup". 1934. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019.
  9. ^ "Mankind Figures (Maiden and Youth)". Art Exhibits of NYC: Rockefeller Center.
  10. ^ "Prometheus". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  11. ^ "Prometheus". Shining Collection. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. (February 27, 1998). "Leonardo Nole, 91, Prometheus Statue's Model". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  13. ^ Paul Manship: Changing Taste in America. Minnesota Museum of Art. 1985. p. 133. ISBN 978-0934251006. He employed a number of assistants (some were to become well-known – Henry Kreis, Albert Stewart and Carl Schmitz in particular). [emphasis added]
  14. ^ The New York Times Biographical Service. New York Times & Arno Press. 1998. Most of the detail work was done by an assistant, Angelo Colombo, and another assistant, Henry Krist [sic], sculptured the hair. [A reprint of the obituary]
  15. ^ Deal, Martha (May 2000). "Who Posed for the Statue of Prometheus?" (PDF). Iron Game History. Vol. 6, no. 3. pp. 34–35. Retrieved January 11, 2019 – via H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.

External links[edit]