Saturday, September 21, 2013

Emanuel Swedenborg Memorial

Emanuel Swedenborg Memorial, 1924
Adolff Johnson
Lincoln Park
East of North Lake Shore Drive and south of Diversey Harbor

            Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish natural philosopher and visionary. Author of both geological and cosmological works, he combined rationalist and empiricist legacies into a natural philosophy that proposed a harmony of the mechanistic universe with Biblical revelation. Not long after his death, followers formed the New Jerusalem Church in London. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Daniel Burnham also were influenced by Swedenborgianism.
            In 1924, Mr. and Mrs. L. Bracket Bishop commissioned a reproduction of a bust of Swedenborg created by Adolff Johnson, a Swedish artist who had crafted his depiction after examining models of the philosopher’s skull. The bronze image was dedicated on July 24, 1924 in an elaborate ceremony that included the reading of a letter from President Calvin Coolidge, speeches by visiting Swedish dignitaries and the recitation of an Edwin Markham poem called “Swedenborg” by Mr. Bishop.
            Unfortunately, the bronze bust was stolen in 1976 and a masonry pyramid was placed upon the original granite pedestal as a replacement.  In 2008, after stories about the missing bust had been circulated among Swedenborg supporters, the New Church Society in Stockholm found the plaster model used by Johnson for the original plaster cast. In 2009, however, an automobile plowed into the pedestal, causing extensive damage. The story ends well, nonetheless, as a new bronze was created by Swedish artist Magnus Persson from the plaster cast and was shipped to Chicago in February 2012. The new bronze portrait of Swedenborg was placed on the repaired pedestal in April of 2012. 

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