It’s not very often that one
encounters an appealing, whimsical piece of sculpture that reflects a broadly
philosophical medical subject. One in particular, which has been in existence
for about a hundred years, is rather interesting, but little has been known
about it, and the sculptor, until recently. The Boston Medical Library is but
one of a number of libraries where you just might meet this diminutive bronze
monkey. In Scotland, you may see a copy long treasured by Aberdeen’s Medico-Chirurgical
Society, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh owns one. Canadians
may be able to study the figure in the Medical Library of Queen’s University,
Kingston, Ontario. Perhaps as many as six or eight of the bronzes remain in
period were generally allegorical and/or interpretations of beauty, or simply
intended for commemoration or decoration (often being incorporated into other
structures such as buildings or important pieces of furniture). Actually, little
is known of the circumstances that led the sculptor to fashion this particular
piece. Its earliest known form is a solid cast bronze fur-covered primate rubbing
his chin, as he contemplates a human skull he is holding. Perhaps he’s smiling,
bemused. The ape is seated on a loose pile of a dozen books, "DARWIN.HB" on
the spine of one, "ERITIS SICUT DEUS" [see note at end] * across the page of
another. The statuette is hand-finished with the addition of a caliper which
is held in the right foot, itself being clasped by its opposite. Signed "Rheinhold",
this earliest example is bolted to a low red-brown stone disc 12cm diameter
and 2 cm high. The piece stands 18.5 cm overall, and was cast by H. Gladenbeck
& Sohn, a Berlin firm.
Very few of the bronzes can now be
located, though one was auctioned in Cologne in 1996. There is a photograph
of the late Nikolai Lenin in which one is seen on his desk. It had been bought
in London by Armand Hammer in 1922 as a gift for the Soviet leader, and as recently
as 1991 it was still on that desk, in the Kremlin. Plaster copies and images
occasionally turn up. One was used for the cover of the Bulletin of Ward’s Natural
Science Establishment (Rochester NY) in 1953. The monkey appeared in W. C. Osman
Hill’s book Man’s Ancestors, as it did in Vernon Reynolds’ [Rheinhold's
- an interesting coincidence] The Apes. Famed anthropologist W. E. LeGros
Clark owned a photograph of the subject. During the past couple of years, a
version of the theme about a foot high and rather lacking in detail has been
available in the USA.
information can be found in a number of places, but until now it has been
sketchy at best. Wolfgang Hugo Rheinhold was born in northwestern Germany on
26 March 1853, in Oberlahnstein, on the Rhine. Cities not very distant are Koblenz,
Frankfurt and Wetzlar. He was the son of Rheinhold Seligmann and his second
wife, Josephine Ass. They were Jews born in Lahnstein and Cologne, respectively.
(Seligmann’s first wife had been Karoline Lippman, d. c1850.) It is a curious
fact that on the birth certificate, the name Seligmann is scored out and replaced
with the father’s "more German" given name. A pencil notation on the back of
the certificate is significant, noting that our subject was a Jew. It is necessary
to know something about the status of Jews in Germany before WW2. It seems clear
that some degree of persecution occurred throughout the nineteenth century.
This is suggested by studying population figures of school age children in various
communities during the 1850s and 1860s.
Investigation by Willi Eisenbarth
of the Stadt Archiv Lahnstein provided background about the family. In 1854,
the Rheinholds (Seligmanns) were prosperous. They owned a two-story house on
High Street, a fruit shop in Weissengasse, and a garden of two acres. However,
by 1857 they had sold all their possessions. It is not known what circumstances
occurred that brought this about. Was there illness, or debt; or had the Seligmanns
made the decision to liquidate their assets and move elsewhere? No record has
yet been discovered to cast light on their lives
in these years.Later, the family did move to Hamburg,
where the father became an ironmonger. Hugo would presumably succeed him in
the business. But trade was bad, and Hugo had met a lovely girl, so he set off
to America to find his fortune.
He lived as a tradesman in San Francisco
from 1874 to 1879, and then returned to Hamburg to start a business and marry.
However, after but a year of happy marriage, his wife died. In despair, Hugo
gave up his business and went to Berlin to study Philosophy.
Of Other works
by Rheinhold, not a great deal is known. Art became Rheinhold’s vocation only
after around 1886. He made plans for formal training, and studied sculpture
from 1888-1892 at the Berlin Academy where he was a pupil of Max Kruse and also
of Ernst Herter. During this time he visited Italy as well. The first known
piece of his work, which achieved great acclaim, was shown at the Great Exhibition
in Berlin in 1892. This was the small bronze statue of the ape contemplating
a human skull. The firm of Gladenbeck took over sales and produced several variations
of this objet d’art, and in addition, in 1899, one of a group of "Lesende
Monche" (monks reading). In 1896, the Berlin National Gallery bought and exhibited
a life-size marble, "Am Wege", and in the same year a bronze group called "Dynamite
Service of Mankind" was executed
in honor of Alfred Nobel and exhibited in the Nobelhof. Rheinhold sculpted one
other large marble and a number of smaller pieces. Only one piece of portraiture
by Rheinhold is known, a bust of August Bebel (1840-1913), the Cologne-born
leader in Socialism.
in the 2 October 1901 issue of a Berlin magazine reads as follows.
"There died here today, after
a long and painful illness, the creator of the magnificent work in marble, "Am
Wege"..... in the National Gallery. A brokenhearted woman stands at the foot
of a crucifix: she carries a sleeping child. It is one of the most beautiful
and moving of the treasures that our National Gallery possesses. Anyone seeing
it will not easily forget it."
Apart from a more decorative group
"Dynamite in the Service of Mankind" which was exhibited in a dealer’s shop
in Hamburg and the larger work shown here [in Berlin] this summer of a group
around a well, "Am Wege" is the only great work this sculptor has produced.
The sculpture is of a Roman, with suicidal thoughts as he contemplates his sword,
carrying the meaningful words, "ferrum sanat", which was exhibited here
some years ago, is only a model for what was to be "Die Kämpfer"
[The Warriors], a protest against anti-Semitism."
Alas, these works have not so far
The Latin, ERITIS SICUT DEUS, is taken
from the Bible (Genesis, III,5). The serpent is enticing Eve to eat of the apple
tree (against the Lord’s command), promising "And ye shall be as god [knowing
good and evil]". The phrase
appears later in Part I of Goethe’s Faust, which was published in 1808 and
likely held it in Rheinhold’s mind. Goethe (1749-1832), incidentally, spent
a great deal of time in the general part of Germany where Rheinhold grew up,
and it’s a little known fact that he devoted much of his later years not to
poetry but to natural history.
DARWIN (1809-1882), son of a physician
(and cousin of another, Francis Galton), published Origin of Species
in 1859. Rheinhold was then a child, and his family perhaps experiencing hard
times. It is not too well known that Darwin described the theory he formulated
around 1844 (and a later one by Alfred Russel Wallace), in correspondence with
Asa Gray in Cambridge (Massachusetts) about two years before Origin’s
Note: There really seems to be little,
which is how this piece happens to be here. A number of people have noted a
similarity between Rheinhold's monkey and "The Thinker" (Auguste Rodin,
1840-1917). It would be interesting to research possible connections between
these two talented individuals.
Hammer, Armand (1897-1990) (with Neil
Lyndon) Hammer (In Chapter 10 there is an account of the statue
Hammer gave to Lenin.)
Prepared by Roberta Gordon Morgan, M. A. (Hons), & Dr. Adam G. N. Moore (1 Dec 98) email@example.com