Serenity

Serenity

On this bike ride I chose to go to see a sculpture entitled “Serenity,” which sits in Meridian Hill Park, located in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood on land bordered by 15th, 16th, W, and Euclid Streets (MAP).  The large outdoor statue depicts a seated woman with a flowing robe over her lap, and her left foot resting on what appears to be a broken sword.  Serenity was installed in the park’s northwest corner and dedicated on March 12, 1924.  It is the work of a Spanish Catalan sculptor named José Clara, and is identical to the sculpture, “Serenidad,” which is known by the same name, only in Spanish for some reason, despite the fact that it is in Luxembourg, Germany.

Serenity was originally owned by Charles Deering, an American businessman, art collector and philanthropist, whose family fortune was made through the agricultural equipment company that eventually became International Harvester.   He bought the statue in 1900 at the Paris Exposition.  As a tribute to the memory of a friend and classmate from the U.S. Naval Academy named William Henry Scheutze, Deering donated the statue to the National Park Service to be displayed publicly as a gift to the American people.

Deering’s friend, Lieutenant Commander William Henry Scheutze, was a career naval officer.  He graduated first in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.  He was part of an expedition to retrieve the bodies of American explorers who died in the Arctic, and later served in Siberia as a navigator, and on the U.S.S. Iowa during the Spanish American War.  At the time of his sudden death, Scheutze had a desk job in D.C. as the superintendent of the compass division of the U.S. Navy.  Other than the fact that Deering already owned the piece, I have no idea what the sculpture of a serene woman has to do with a deceased naval officer.

Unfortunately, the sculpture is in a state of disrepair.  Her nose went missing in 1960, and by 2009 she was also missing her left hand and a big toe.  She has been vandalized over the years with paint as well, although that has been cleaned up.    But it is nonetheless a nice sculpture, and worth seeking out, especially if you’re already visiting Meridian Hill Park.

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