Richard Kissling

Helvetia und Merkur, 1899
Walter A. Bechtler-Stiftung

Richard Kissling (1848-1919):
«Helvetia und Merkur», 1899

From 1899 to 1959, the 3,9 meters high «Mother Helvetia» welcomed Swiss Bank Corporation's customers at Zürich's Paradeplatz. When she had to make way for the new building in 1959, Walter Bechtler saved the sculpture from being scrapped and placed it in the yard of his company Luwa in Albisrieden. During the merger of Zellweger and Luwa in 1991, the collossus woman moved to her current location in Uster. Helvetia holds in her right hand a tiny figure of Mercury, the Roman god of trade, commerce, wealth and profit. Merkur's symbol is the herald's staff, a staff with coiled snakes, which he holds in his hand. After the small figure was knocked down one night, the stolen god had to be reconstructed from a photograph by the Kunstgiesserei (Art Foundry) St. Gallen. It was finished with gold leaf and is enthroned again, since 1997, on a ball in Mother Helvetia's hand.

The allegorical female figure, symbolising Switzerland, was realized by the Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling in 1899. Kissling is today considered a true national sculptor because of his numerous patriotic monuments. His most important work is the Wilhelm Tell monument on the town hall square in Altdorf. Ten years before the realization of «Helvetia», Kissling made his artistic breakthrough with the monument for Alfred Escher (1883-1889), which still stands today on Bahnhofplatz in Zürich.

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