Sappho and J.C. Zenea, poets memorialized in Cuba

by Chris Murray on April 29, 2016


I was walking up the lovely Prado in Havana from the Malecon when I came upon a stunning sculpture dedicated to the Cuban poet and artist J.C. Zenea (1832-1871), and to the great lyric poet from ancient Greece, Sappho. The Cuban poet and revolutionary J.C. Zenea who is honored in the monument, was executed by Spanish troops in 1871 after meeting with Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the leader of the rebellion against colonial Spain for Cuban independence. Sappho and her lyre are beautifully depicted, carved out of the marble base while the bronze sculpture of the Cuban poet Zenea is placed above the marble.

IMG_4863 The signature of the Spanish artist Ramon Mateu © Carlotta Hester

The monument caught my eye as it is truly beautiful and engaging. But I was especially attracted to the sculpture by the Spanish artist Ramon Mateu (1891-1981) for its depiction of Sappho and her lyre, as Donovan’s Sapphograph exhibition is currently at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. It is because of my work with Donovan the past several years curating exhibition of his Sapphographs in Washington, Dublin, Athens, Nafplio, and in Baltimore at the Visionary Art Museum that I came to know and learn about Sappho and her poetry.

IMG_4859Govinda Gallery director Chris Murray at the monument to J.C. Zenea and Sappho. © Carlotta Hester
IMG_4767A verse from a poem by J.C. Zenea © Carlotta Hester

Donovan’s Sapphograph exhibition in Washington at the Center for Hellenic Studies continues through the summer.

Donovan’s Sapphographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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