At this moment (6:40 p.m.) the thermometer stands at 8 degrees fahrenheit (13 degrees centigrade) and is falling fast. This is the winter vista before the sun went down:
Pretty bleak, despite the pretty blue sky and blue snow. Instead of fat gray squirrels dashing to and fro, the landscape would be more hospitable to large prowling white animals. Polar bears, maybe. It just so happens that we HAVE a polar bear, what the Germans call an Eisbar:
A fine specimen, our polar bear, even if he is only about 16 inches long. Look at his massive paws, the sheer weight and strength and power of them! He’s an actual size replica of a sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and years ago I had to buy him because — well, you knew there was a story attached, didn’t you?
Many years ago, decades of them, when my husband and I were strolling around the enchanted town of Dijon, France, we came upon a leafy green park and were greeted at the entrance by a HUGE polar bear, a magnificent sculpture, life-size:
For me it was love at first sight. Every day we were in Dijon I made sure to visit my friend, the Polar Bear. The plaque said that the sculpture was by a M. François Pompon, made in 1922. The sculpture is marble, and is perhaps eight FEET long, despite the fact that it looks so small in the only photo I could find of it in situ. (Use your imagination to visualize my little reproduction inflated to eight feet!) When years later I found a reproduction of Pompon’s polar bear at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I had to splurge and buy it, and it has lived ever since on our coffee table.
Our current intense cold makes my polar bear more relevant than ever. If we are going to be living in another Ice Age populated by Arctic animals, I’d like to be more knowledgeable about them. So I Googled my bear and his creator. Pompon, a Burgundian from Saulieu, was a one-time assistant to Rodin. He was later famed for his stylized animal sculptures, and was an influence on, among others, Constantin Brancusi. His work was, unsurprisingly, immensely popular.
For years I’ve revered the name François Pompon (which is quite a wonderful name, anyway) and marveled at the coincidence of the huge bear in the park and my small reproduction. Imagine my surprise? chagrin? while Googling to discover that in fact the sculpture in the Park Darcy in Dijon is NOT by Pompon himself. It is a copy made in hommage by another sculptor altogether, one Henri Martinet. Pompon’s original sculpture is in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Had I but known when we were in Paris—
Ah well. If Martinet could do an hommage, then so can I. M. Pompon, this one’s for you!