If you’ve visited Telfair Academy lately, you might have noticed something new about the exterior. Replica busts of Aristotle and Alexander Von Humboldt have returned to the façade of the Academy.
The original busts were created by Telfair Museums’ first director, Carl Brandt, specifically for Telfair Academy. They were cast in relief (or alto relievo) in smooth cement and were removed in the late 1970s. Why? We’re not sure, but reasons may include a desire to highlight the regency style of the original mansion. The busts were safely kept in art storage until their recent rediscovery.
Telfair Buildings Curator Sonja Wallen decided to restore them to their original glory and oversaw the project from start to finish. Aristotle and Humboldt’s busts traveled to Philadelphia to be restored by figurative sculptor Christopher Smith. He pieced the busts back together, filled in missing areas, and made molds. The busts were then cast in fiberglass-reinforced concrete — a lighter and stronger material.
Back in Savannah, Wallen contracted Landmark Preservation who worked carefully to install the beautiful replicas of the busts on the front of the Academy. They were mounted onto the building using threaded bolts that are locked in place on the attic side of the parapet. What happened to the originals? They were returned to Telfair Museums and will periodically go on display in Telfair Academy, so be sure to stop by and see them on your next visit!
Thank you to our Buildings Curator, Sonja, and Landmark Preservation!