If you enter our museum from the front entrance, you are immediately greeted by La Grande Penelope, a bronze statue cast in 1956 after the French artist (and pupil of Rodin) Antoine Bourdelle’s original 1912 sculpture. She stands tall in our Central Courtyard. 

La Grande Penelope is made in tribute to the character of the same name in Homer’s Odyssey. Her eyes are closed and her head rests in her hand as she painfully waits for her loved one to return. Although made to honor Penelope, the statue’s facial features are inspired by Bourdelle’s first wife, Stéphanie Van Parys. The statue is both captivating and patient. 

Our La Grande Penelope. Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (French, 1861-1929). "La Grande Penelope," c. 1912 (cast 1956) Bronze. La Grande Penelope.

Our La Grande Penelope. Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (French, 1861-1929). “La Grande Penelope,” c. 1912 (cast 1956) Bronze. La Grande Penelope.

She also has a sister over in Paris—an older sister, technically, since that one is the original sculpture.

Some of our museum staffers—including our director Sean O’Harrow, director of development Cara Mazzei, and development associate Ching Jen Lum—and supporters got to meet our Penelope’s counterpart while on a recent trip to the City of Lights.

Tucked into the residential neighborhood of Montparnasse—aka the 15th arrondissement—is the Bourdelle Museum.”It reminded me of HoMA as it had inside gallery spaces along with small beautiful courtyards,” Mazzei says. The intimate space is lined with blooming gardens and lit with streams of natural lighting. It also includes the artist’s former 19th century studios and apartments—it doesn’t get any more intimate than that. 

The group of HoMA staffers and supporters learning about the original Penelope.

The group of HoMA staffers and supporters learning about the original Penelope.

The Great Hall of the museum—which Mazzei called “impressive”—is dedicated to Bourdelle’s monuments. This is where Penelope, with her sense of longing, is on display. “For me, seeing her was like greeting a familiar friend,” Mazzei continues.

In fact, O’Harrow had a chance to meet with the Bourdelle Museum’s own director, Amélie Simier.

From left to right: Simier and O'Harrow.

From left to right: Simier and O’Harrow.

The trip is O’Harrow’s inaugural HoMA Director’s trip. Being so familiar with the area, he curated the itinerary—so it may come as no surprise as to why the Bourdelle Museum made the cut. The museum partnered with Benefactor Travel, a company that specializes in museum trips, to help the trip come together.

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