The most elaborate piece of public art with hidden in plain sight symbolism in my home-country's capital, Helsinki, is the Statue of Alexander II.
The statue is located right in the middle of Helsinki center, very close to the Stone of the Empress and Havis Amanda. It was designed by a Freemason Walter Runeberg (see also the J.L. Runeberg statue) and Johannes Takanen.
Helsinki Art Museum introduction:
"Alexander II, Tsar of Russia and Grand Duke of Finland, inspired confidence in his Finnish subjects. Following his assassination in 1881, the estates organized a competition for a memorial in 1884. Every respected sculptor in Finland at the time participated. Johannes Takanen won the competition by a narrow margin with Walter Runeberg taking second place. Since the jury considered both entries extremely good, the work was given to both artists - as a joint commission.
However, Johannes Takanen died in 1885 leaving the work to Walter Runeberg. The competition jury had given especial praise to Takanen's treatment of Alexander's figure. On the other hand, the jury had from the very beginning been fascinated by the images Walter Runeberg had included in the pedestal in his entry.
Runeberg made the monarch's figure according to Takanen's proposal and added it's pedestal symbolic figures representing Law, Light (Science and Art), Peace and Work (Lex, Lux, Pax and Labor). The figure symbolizing law was the maiden of Finland wearing a bearskin. The same maiden can be seen in the pedestal of Runeberg's memorial to Finland's national poet J. L. Runeberg, located in the Esplanadi park.
The memorial was unveiled on April 29, 1894. Alexander II is depicted wearing a guards uniform, speaking at the Porvoo Diet in 1863. The uniform was Runeberg's idea; in Takanen's entry the monarch was dressed in civilian clothes without the symbols of power."
The most obvious part of hidden in plain sight symbolism is on one of the pedestal statues. If you look closely, you can see the masonic square and compass motif hidden close to the feet of the winged boy figure.
|Masonic square and compass with a hammer|
A better view of it can be seen in another version of this boy figure, called Art's genius. (Located in the Runeberg museum in Porvoo.)
|Masonic logo on Art's genius|
|Masonic symbolism: square, compass and a hammer|
Another masonic motif of the monument is the obelisk. The pedestal Alexander stands on, is actually and obelisk - surrounded by four other obelisks, masked as lamp stands. More about the obelisk symbolism in the article The Stone of the Empress.
The masonic symbolism of this monument is only a side track. The main focus of the symbolism in on tarot.
The statue of Alexander, and the four surrounding pedestal statues Peace, Law, Work and Light, are all representations of tarot cards.
Peace represents the card The Empress. If you know anything about Greek mythology, you can clearly see this statue is the mother goddess Demeter. The Empress of the tarot is the mother goddess.
"The Empress is the archetypal Earth Mother, the Anima, the Feminine Principle, Demeter, Freyja and the Goddess of Fertility. Ruled by Venus, the planet of love, creativity, fertility, art, harmony, luxury, beauty and grace." (biddytarot.com)
|Peace and The Empress|
In tarot, The Empress represents things like productivity, growth and business. The pedestal statue Peace is located on the north side of the monument. When you look at it, you can see behind her the old city block of the most wealthy Finnish merchant families during the 1800's.
|Senate Square's south side: city block of the old merchant families|
Law represents the tarot card Strength with the goddess and the lion motif.
|Law and Strength|
It's a very, very old motif. Examples:
|The goddess and the lion: Ishtar|
|The goddess an the lion: Inanna|
|The goddess and the lion: Cybele|
|Egyptian lion goddess Sekhmet|
In tarot, Strength represents things like mental discipline and control of thought. The pedestal statue Law is located on the south side of the monument. When you look at it, you can see the Helsinki Cathedral behind it.
Perhaps you can see the connection between the church and "control of thought"?
|The Helsinki Cathedral|
Light represents the tarot card The World.
|Light and The World|
Just look at the details of the card:
- Name: The World
- A bare chested goddess
- Two wands in the hands of the goddess
- A wreath around the goddess
- A bull's head in the bottom left corner representing Taurus
- A boy's head in the top left corner (in many decks a winged boy) representing Aquarius
- An eagle in the top right corner representing Scorpio (older symbol for the zodiac sign)
- A lion in the bottom right corner representing Leo
Now compare that list on the details of the statue:
- A globe
- A bare chested goddess
- A spectrometer with two tubes in the hand of the goddess
- A wreath around the head of the goddess
- A harp made of an animal with horns, on the left side of the goddess
- A winged boy on the left side of the goddess
- On the right side, cherubs (details of the stand of the globe) with the head of a man, wings of an eagle and...
- ... the body of a lion
|The cherubs and the globe|
In tarot, The World represents things like wisdom and knowledge. The pedestal statue Light is located on the east side of the monument. When you look at it, you can see the main building of the Helsinki University behind it.
Work represents the tarot card The Devil.
|Work and The Devil|
Look at the details of the card:
- A man representing the masculine
- A woman representing the feminine
- Both attached to the pedestal...
- ... by chains
- Above them their ruler
Compare the list to the details of the statue:
- A man holding an ax (phallic symbol)
- A woman holding a sickle (a feminine symbol)
- Both attached to the pedestal...
- ... and "chained" to their labor and hard work
- Above them their ruler Alexander II
In tarot, The Devil represents things like laws and rules, order, authority and submission to external power. The pedestal statue Work is located on the west side of the monument. When you look at it, you can see the the Government Palace (Prime Minister's office) behind it.
Finally, at the top of the monument stands Alexander II - the Emperor of Russia.
|Alexander II and The Emperor|
Nice work, Mr. Runeberg.
|Walter Runeberg and the masonic "lion's paw"|
More examples of tarot symbolism in statues on page Esoteric statues.