7. Glory of Commerce

Glory of Commerce

The sculpture Glory of Commerce, alternatively named Transportation or Progress with Mental and Physical Force, adorns the front of Grand Central Station. Designed by French sculptor Jules-Félix Coutan, the work is an astonishing 48 feet tall and 66 feet wide and portrays the terminal as a groundbreaking step towards technological innovation in the city. At the center stands Mercury, representing travel and commerce, standing in a contrapposto pose in front of an eagle. To Mercury’s left is Vulcan holding a hammer (though he is often mistaken as Hercules) sitting among an anchor, beehive, and grapes. To Mercury’s left is Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, looking at a roll of parchment while sitting among a globe and a compass.

Coutan supposedly never stepped foot in the United States, creating the model in Paris and thereafter shipping it to the United States. The sculpture also sits above a 13-foot-wide Tiffany clock, the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass. The sculpture also represents the Vanderbilt family, as William K. Vanderbilt was a long-time owner of the New York Central Railroad.