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Soul de Ebro

Soul de Ebro (The Soul of the Ebro)

They wanted an icon for the town. A symbol, to be called the soul of the famous river by which the town was situated. The river was the longest in the country and its importance was well known to all.

The world famous sculptor from the same country was invited to make an extraordinary icon. When the final work came out at the cost of half a million Euros; disappointed, they felt, it was difficult to identify it as an allegory of the river.

soul de ebro zaragosa

So the sculpture was not kept besides the river or on a water sheet. Instead, it was made to sit at the International Exposition. Literally!!
Nonetheless, this most expensive piece of the Arts Programme went on to become one of the most photographed views of the international event! And I also contributed to that number. 🙂

The name of the river is Ebro, the sculptor, Jaume Plensa and the town, Zaragosa. Yes, that windy town Zaragosa. 🙂

soul de ebro zaragosa

The river Ebro has the greatest discharge of any Spanish river, and its drainage basin is the largest in Spain. The Expo was focused on the theme of water.

soul de ebro zaragosa

The 11 meters tall sculpture depicts a man in a fetal position, whose body is made of stainless steel letters that are painted white. The interior of the figure is hollow leaving the front and the top open.
The lattice work formed by letters creates a warm space within and invites the viewer to enter into the seated figure to look from the inside to the outer world. This conveys to the viewer a sense of mystery, a sense of self realization. In an urban environment of concrete jungles, this human figure was conceived as a metaphor for the human being and water and gave prominence to the people.

soul de ebro zaragosa

So why the monument was not as per the expectation?
The Catalan sculptor Plensa is obsessive with his works of art that represent a body. Even if the body is not explicitly represented, the other dimensions of the work bring it out boldly. Words or letters are an integral part of his work. But that is not the reason here.

Plensa had delivered magnificent Crown Fountain of Chicago which was a huge success. So when he was invited to make an icon for Zaragosa, he presented the same sitting human silhouette which was exposed earlier to many other places, for example, in Moscow an almost identical replica named Knowledge House, and another one in Prague named We.

soul de ebro zaragosa

This act reduced the chances of this sculpture to become an icon of Zaragoza; the location chosen for this sculpture was not the most appropriate if you think of it as something to relate with the waters of the Ebro river but today, undoubtedly, it is one of the best public art works of the city and an important milestone.
And of course, the most photographed memorial !

For more photos of this monument or the town Zaragosa, check this album on Facebook.

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14 thoughts on “Soul de Ebro”

  1. Such twist and interesting story indeed!

    I love the way you’ve portrayed the positiveness of this monument.
    In the Segway article also you showed the same thing.

    That is why your blog is so different from others. 🙂
    Keep it up girl!

  2. Sometimes we can’t decipher the nuances of art, be it painting or sculpting. So, with our limited knowledge, we can’t pass judgement on artistic works.Artlessness or artfulness is beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals like me.
    Beautiful write.

  3. look from within outside. I am thinking this could be such an apt symbol to do sensitivity training. Seated in that weird place, yes, that sculpture occupies a greater profoundness…

  4. Shreya,
    Thanks for your encouraging words.

    The story of this monument is indeed interesting. Can you imagine the feelings of the people who were not happy to see a duplicate monument even after spending a fortune?

  5. Easwar,
    That is right.
    We don’t know what the artist has in his mind and if it comes out to be different from what we have perceived then, obviously we don’t like it. 🙂

    Thanks for your kind words. Humbled.

  6. Bhavana,
    Glad to see you here.

    Very profound indeed but I still, like the locals there, wonder what’s the relationship of water with this steeled human. 😛

    I also went inside & looked outside but no luck. 😀

  7. I loved the sculpture for sure. Am surprised you didnt pose for a snap inside it. 🙂
    Tourism helps a city create such beautiful public places.

  8. Janit,

    Glad to see you after so long ! 😀

    I do have a snap standing inside it. 🙂

    I agree, tourism helps in knowing and appreciating the world better and I am trying to do my bit.

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