Peace on Earth

Historical Background

1969, Jacques Lipchitz. 29'H x 13'W x 13'D. Music Center.
On Sunday afternoon, May 4, 1969, "Peace on Earth" was dedicated and "Given as a Symbol of Peace to the Peoples of the World." With war raging in Southeast Asia, Jacques Lipchitz described his sculpture as "a prayer for peace," and added that "if peace does not come, it is bad sculpture." This work is the final development of a concept and design Lipchitz began shortly after World War II, when he was commissioned to make a statue of the Virgin for Notre Dame de Toute Grace at Assy. Titled "Notre Dame de Liese" (Our Lady of Joy), his sculpture portrays a dove descending to earth with the spirit of peace, symbolized by the Madonna standing inside a tear shaped canopy, supported by a base of reclining lambs. Three casts were made and are located at Notre Dame de Liese in Assy, the abbey of St. Columba on the island of Iona in the Herbrides, and the Roofless Church in New Harmony, Indiana.

While "Notre Dame de Liese" was at the foundry during the casting process, Lipchitz realized that adding a pedestal composed of figures reaching up to receive the Virgin would transform the religious motif of "Notre Dame de Liese" into a more universal theme. His new work, executed in 1958, was titled "Between Heaven and Earth." Three casts of the 9' tall sculpture were eventually made, one of which was given in 1967 to Hasting-on-Hudson, the town where Lipchitz lived when staying in the United States.

The architects of the Music Center, Welton Becket and Associates, opposed placing sculpture in the plaza between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Mark Taper Forum. However, Lawrence E. Deutsch and Lloyd E. Rigler donated $250,000 to commission a work for the fountain between the two theaters and after a two year search, the Art Committee of the Music Center, which was responsible for selecting the sculptor, commissioned Lipchitz in 1966 to execute a larger version of "Between Heaven and Earth." When he received the commission, Lipchitz said "I don't think a 20-year-old boy could be more ardent than I am about the task at hand. Everything in me is revived. Now I feel justified in my longing to finish my career in the making of truly monumental pieces. Space is the sculptors' challenge and I mean to use it eloquently."

Lipchitz visited the Music Center and determined the size of the new work based on his sense of the scale of the plaza and its relationship to the surrounding buildings. He designed the sculpture, titled "Peace on Earth" by Dorothy Chandler, to be less religious than "Between Heaven and Earth." A large plaster model Lipchitz spent seven months fashioning was destroyed by the floods which also caused extensive damage in Florence in 1966. After rebuilding the plaster cast, 50 separate molds were formed. These were filled with wax and then cast into bronze at the Luigi Tommasi foundry in Pietrasanta.?Lipchitz then retouched the bronzes both before and after they were welded and assembled into the final work. Weighing 10 tons, the sculpture is the largest Lipchitz completed. "Peace on Earth" was an important work to Lipschitz. In his autobiography, he traced its development in detail. Today, no work of public art in Los Angeles is more photographed. Thousands of tourists visit the Music Center each week and "Peace on Earth" is an integral part of their tour. Yet despite the sculpture's high visibility and its importance to Lipschitz, there are member of the Music Center Board who would like to replace it with a more contemporary piece.

While "Peace of Earth" remains in place, it is continually being damaged by the playful spray from the fountain constructed around the sculpture in 1987. An assessment of the sculpture's condition conducted by conservators in 1997, found the work "is in serious need of conservation" because of extensive corrosion on the bronze surface and a vertical crack on its west side. Rather than respond to the pressing need for action, the Music Center Board may discourage conservation intervention in deference to the members who want the work removed.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, April 1998.

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