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Eagles and Prey map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Eagles and Prey, by Christophe Fratin (1800-1864), is the oldest known sculpture in any New York City park. Cast in Paris in 1850, the statue was a gift given to the City by Gordon Webster Burnham (1803-1885). It was installed in Central Park in 1863. Burnham, a manufacturing giant, also commissioned the heroic-sized statue of Daniel Webster that stands on the West Drive at 72nd Street.

Fratin was born in Metz, France, and began his studies under a local sculptor named Pioche, who had achieved a measure of fame in Paris. Fratin’s father was a taxidermist, which might account for the sculptor’s penchant for animal images. In Paris, Fratin joined the atelier of the painter Géricault, an artist celebrated for his anatomical studies and for the monumental picture Raft of the Medusa.

By the 1830s, Fratin became associated with the sculptors known as animaliers, because of their preference for animal subjects. During this time, he produced a series of small bronze pieces that were thought to be fanciful and romantic in tone. He exhibited for the first time at the Parisian Salon of 1831. Fratin subsequently cultivated patrons in France, Germany, Austria, England, and the United States. His work was particularly well received in England, where he was awarded a medal for work displayed in the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Eagles and Prey illustrates the animaliers’ interest in the elemental forces of nature: a helpless goat is caught in the talons of two birds of prey. The work’s rich surface texture and anatomical detail are typical of Fratin’s style. Introduced into Central Park just a year after the park’s Board of Commissioners committee formed to review new statuary, Eagles and Prey was considered by some to be an intrusion. Critic Clarence Cook felt that Fratin’s choice of subject and ‘wild, exotic depictions’ did not fit in with ‘the tranquil rural beauty of the park scenery.’ Eagles and Prey, however, outlasted such initially squeamish sentiments. The sculpture, cleaned and repaired by the Central Park Conservancy in 1992, remains an integral member of the group of 19th and early 20th century statues in and around the Mall.

Eagles and Prey Details

  • Sculptor: Christophe Fratin
  • Description: Group of two birds attacking a goat, on a pedestal
  • Materials: Bronze, Quincy light granite
  • Dimensions: Total dimensions H: 12'6" W: 6' D: 6'
  • Cast: 1850
  • Dedicated: 1863
  • Donor: Gordon Webster Burnham
  • Inscription: PRESENTED BY / G. W. BURNHAM / MDCCCLXIII

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

ParkCentral Park

As of April 27, Central Park's Bow Bridge is closed to the public for structural work and a fresh coat of paint. The work is expected to last three to four months. Removing the old paint will require wrapping the bridge in a tent-like structure to prevent debris from falling into the water. Along with repainting, the work will include replacing the wooden decking, fixing several beams on the underside of the span, and reinforcing approaches at either end.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2015

ParkCentral Park

Starting June 29, 2015, Central Park Drives north of 72nd Street will be permanently car-free. For more information, please visit on.nyc.gov/1MOAh40.

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