All of a sudden, our Prometheus was gone. At the beginning of 2012, the statue was stolen, presumably by bronze thieves. Now, after four years, Prometheus will once again adorn Mekel Park. The statue by artist Willem Jager will be unveiled on Friday 8 January 2016 by Rector Magnificus Karel Luyben during TU Delft’s Foundation Day celebrations.
Who is Prometheus?
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was an immortal deity who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. His gruesome punishment for this crime was to be bound to a rock in the Caucasus where an eagle ate his liver anew every day, because it would regenerate overnight. Eventually he was freed from his ordeal by Heracles.
By gifting us fire, Prometheus also gave technology an immense boost. We could then smelt metal to make tools, fire pottery and heat homes. And this is why the fire from Prometheus became the symbol of TU Delft.
A statue with history
The original Prometheus statue was designed and crafted in 1953 by Oswald Wenckebach, Professor of Modelling at the Delft Institute of Technology. It was a gift from the Society of Delft Engineers to the Institute of Technology to celebrate its centenary anniversary. For many years, the statue stood at the entrance of the former main building (the current Faculty of Architecture) before taking up residence in the Mekelpark in 2007.
Theft leaves a big hole behind
Students and staff were outraged by the theft of the statue that had stood on campus for almost 60 years. Soon after the robbery, TU Delft Library and Marketing & Communications held a competition to design a new statue. The winning design came from alumnus and now former colleague at TU Delft, Willem Jager. Jager’s statue is a tribute to the original sculpture. It is a 4 cm thick plate with a hole in the shape of old Prometheus statue, which symbolises the void left by the theft. It will be placed sideways over the original natural stone plinth to ensure the shackles with which Prometheus was chained remain visible.
Jager’s original design from 2012 was adapted in consultation with Prof. Wenckebach’s son. Jager had replicated the frontal outline of Prometheus from an old photograph. However, the head appeared quite compressed from this perspective and finally a side view was chosen in order to make Prometheus’s descent to Earth clearly visible. This better emphasises the essence of the original statue.
A fine example
The new Prometheus statue is made of weathering steel – a weather-proof, rusty-looking metal that fits well with the green of Mekel Park. It also has little intrinsic value, which reduces the risk of it being stolen again.
You can see here how Prometheus was cut out of the steel plate:
Willem Jager studied Civil Engineering and majored in ‘Building Design’. He then went on to work for the Defence Department’s Construction Section and at TU Delft, where his achievements included joint responsibility for the expansion of TPM, the new library building and the construction of the Mekelpark. He recently decided to devote all his time to art and now works as a 3D designer/artist. His mission is to create art that beautifies, amazes, troubles or disturbs. He wants his work to evoke emotion in the viewer. You can find out more about him at www.willemjager.com.