No one knows what “Fame” really looked like. The allegorical female figure that once stood on the granite pedestal of a monument dedicated to Bronx Civic Leader Louis J. Heintz was only ever photographed from behind. In the 1970s, after falling victim to multiple incidents of vandalism, the statue was removed to storage. This location unfortunately proved even more dangerous. In 1980, vandals broke into the storage unit and chopped off her arms, feet, and even her head. Parks Department conservator-sculptor John Saunders was tasked with creating a new face for “Fame.” After extensive restoration, the formerly headless statue was unveiled, fully intact, at a rededication ceremony this December.
The Louis J. Heintz Memorial was dedicated in 1909 at Grand Concourse in the Bronx, a place Heintz advocated for as Street Commissioner. Created by French sculptor Pierre Feitu, the monument features a bronze statue of Heintz standing atop a granite plinth. At the steps on the bottom of the plinth, there was a bronze allegorical figure of “Fame.” “Fame” held a palm frond in one hand (which was removed in 1935 after it came loose) and her other hand reached up and appeared to be writing the words inscribed on the monument, “To Commemorate the founding of the progress and prosperity of the Bronx.”
To create a face that might look somewhat like the original, Saunders consulted other works of Pierre Feitu and his contemporaries. To recreate the arms, the New York Times reports that Saunder made a cast of the arm of Odette Blaisdell, a female intern. The arms, feet, and head that Saunders sculpted out of clay were cast in bronze at the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint. To give the sculpture a cohesive look, Saunders made sure the shiny new extremities were given the right patina to match the 100+-year-old statue’s body.
Restoration work on “Fame” began in 2014 after a detailed photographic survey and hands-on conservation analysis. In addition to replacing the missing parts, brazing, and corrosion removal work was done. When the “Fame” statue was reattached to the granite plinth, it was secured in multiple spots. The restoration of the formerly headless statue was made possible with a $22,000 grant from the Porzelt Foundation, and countless hours of work executed by Parks’ dedicated conservation team. You can now see “Fame’s” new face at the newly rededicated Heintz Monument in Joyce Kilmer Park. See more photos from the restoration process below: