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Eduardo Paolozzi: Vulcan

Open Air

Paolozzi's interest in collage and assemblage can be seen here in Vulcan (1999) who he depicts as half-man and half-machine – a monument to the modern, industrial age. This seven-metre-tall piece was one of the last major bronzes Paolozzi made and was originally commissioned for Central Square, Newcastle. 

Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and metalworking, reflected in the hammer he holds in this sculpture. The son of Jupiter and Juno, Vulcan was thrown from Mount Olympus by his mother who was ashamed of his looks. During his fall, Vulcan is said to have broken his leg which rendered him lame and is perhaps why Paolozzi has depicted one of the figure’s feet as being considerably smaller than the other.

Myth has it that after marrying Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, Vulcan built a forge under Mount Etna on the island of Sicily. It is said that whenever Venus was unfaithful, Vulcan grew angry and beat the red-hot metal with such force that sparks and smoke rose up from the top of the mountain, creating a volcanic eruption.

Paolozzi first exhibited at YSP in the early 1980s and in 1994 the Park presented a major exhibition to mark his 70th birthday. The artist was made a CBE in 1968, an RA in 1979, and was knighted in 1989; he was made a member of the Athenaeum and was awarded numerous honorary doctorates, one by Cambridge University where he was also an honorary fellow of Jesus College.

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