Did you know that you can find very special and beautiful sculptures in Rotterdam? Did you know that you can also see many works of art in public just for free? We randomly put together three cool sculptures in Rotterdam that you can find in the city center. Get to know a forgotten monument, a demonic work of art and a rather painful royal sculpture.
1. Monument to the Fallen 1940-1945
Rotterdammers have probably walked past it ten thousand times already. The statue with the people in front of the town hall is close to the cafes and restaurants on Stadhuisplein. Many people are familiar with the sculpture, but what does it actually represent? The poetic text on the pedestal of the sculpture probably doesn’t make the average visitor much wiser either. Whereas The Destroyed City of Zadkine still has a sign with information text, the Monument to the Fallen remains a bit of a puzzle.
Perhaps Mari Andriessen’s work of art is one of the most beautiful sculptures in Rotterdam in symbolic terms. You see a woman, child, man and another man standing with a shovel. The woman is looking at the town hall. She looks back symbolically to the past. She does this with her head bent and her shoulder hanging down a little. She is saddened by the Rotterdam that was lost during the big bombardment (May 14, 1940). The child connects the woman with the man in the middle. The man is looking forward to the Lijnbaan, one of the greatest achievements during the Reconstruction Period. He looks to the future, but also with his head and shoulders slightly bent. He has doubts about the future. What will it bring us?
The last image is perhaps the most stereotypical representation of a Rotterdammer. On the far right is a tough guy with his chest forward and his shovel in his hands. He represents: ‘Come on, let’s move on! Let’s make something beautiful out of Rotterdam again!’ The striking thing is that Marie Andriessen has combined three different emotions in one image. Of course, these were also emotions that were also felt for a long time in post-war Rotterdam.
2. Streetart Mephisto
Alright, we talk about sculptures in Rotterdam. This street art is clearly not a sculpture, but it’s a great artwork in the public domain. Artists Joren Joshua and Ilse Weisfelt have brought back a musical piece of Rotterdam history behind the Oude Binnenweg. In the Boomgaardhof you can see dancing jazz musicians and the name ‘Mephisto’. This colourful street art refers to the period 1934-1938. At that time there was a jazz café called Mephisto at number 94 in the Oude Binnenweg. This is truly one of the most beautiful swinging images in Rotterdam!
In 2019, a jazz café will sound quite normal. If you go back more than eighty years in time, jazz is an underground culture. Underground culture is perhaps put mildly because for many in the western world jazz music is pornographically offensive music that gives the youth inappropriate sexual feelings. After all, jazz is black music and blacks then have the reputation of having unbridled lusts.
Jazz café Mephisto is the first jazz café in Rotterdam and they deal with the reputation of jazz music played by blacks in an ironic way. Firstly, they proudly advertise with the name ‘Negro Palace Mephisto’ and secondly, the name Mephisto refers to a devilish figure. The decoration is also demonic. For example, the entrance is the head of a devilish figure and his open mouth is the entrance. Inside, the carpet and the curtains are red, as is the colour of Mephisto’s cloak.
And once you’re inside, you’re actually being cheated in a creative way. Jazz music is originally played by American black musicians. The problem is that at the time there were not always black American musicians in Rotterdam. The solution? Find other black musicians. Colored people from Suriname are often used for this. These Surinamese are given American stage names, which gives the Dutch public the impression that they are listening to authentic bands from the US. But did they know better in a time without television and internet?
3. Stronger through Struggle
Rotterdammers know that ‘Stronger by battle’ is the official motto of Rotterdam. But does every Rotterdammer know that we have a work of art with the same name? This is perhaps one of the sculptures in Rotterdam with the most extraordinary and “painful” background history. The statue ‘Stronger through Struggle’ is prominent in the central hall of the city hall. During office hours during the week you can walk into the town hall and admire this statue.
This immensely heavy (min. 5000 kilos) marble statue by sculptor Hanke Hans was donated by Queen Wilhemina and unveiled in 1951 by Queen Juliana. The statue represents King David, the heroic one who defeats the giant Goliath in the Bible. But here David defeated Nazi Germany and this is symbolised by his trampling on the German eagle. David is also strikingly depicted naked in order to symbolise in this way that we, as Rotterdam, were also “naked” after the war. Rotterdam was literally and figuratively in ruins and the reconstruction period was desperately needed.
So far there is nothing crazy about the statue of David. But let’s have a look at David’s little bird. You can’t tell by looking at it, but David has lost a piece of his penis. Ai! Not an accident, but on purpose. The royal family thought the original penis was too big. So we had to take a few centimetres off. But why? Just think about the Greek and Roman statues. All those perfect marble men often have a small penis too. A small penis represents intelligence and control. A large penis stands for rudeness and uninhibitedness. Probably a lot of men think now: am I glad I’m a little rude…
Would you like to discover more beautiful sculptures and street art in Rotterdam with special background stories? Then join one of our guided tours! With our Rotterdam Free Tour and Rotterdam Highlights Walking Tour we come across many unique works of art in the city centre. You are more than welcome!