The Naked City: Grand Central Terminal


Monday, September 9, 2019. New York City – Grand Central Terminal is another place in “The Capital of the World” with beautiful art.

The Glory of Commerce is on the terminal’s facade. Mercury and Hercules are both naked. Minerva is wearing clothes.

Saturday, September 7, 2019 - Grand Central Terminal. New York City.
Saturday, September 7, 2019 – Facade of Grand Central Terminal, the MetLife building and other buildings. Manhattan, New York City.

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“Grand Central Terminal, one of the main railroad stations in New York City, features public art by a variety of artists. Through its status as a transportation and architectural icon, the terminal has also been depicted in many works of art.

Grand Central features permanent works of art, including the celestial ceiling in the Main Concourse, the Glory of Commerce work and the statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of the building’s south facade, and the two cast-iron eagle statues adorning the terminal’s facades. As well, Vanderbilt Hall is regularly used for temporary art exhibitions and events. The Dining Concourse has a series of lightboxes also used to display temporary art exhibits. The terminal is also known for its performance and installation art, including flash mobs and other spontaneous events.


The Glory of Commerce sculptural group rests atop the terminal’s facade, directly above a broken pediment featuring a large clock. The work is also known as Progress with Mental and Physical Force or Transportation. It is about 48 feet (15 m) tall, 66 feet (20 m) wide, and weighs about 1,500 pounds (680 kg). At its unveiling in 1914, the work was considered the largest sculptural group in the world.

The work includes representations of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury. The sculptures were designed by French sculptor Jules-Félix Coutan and carved by the John Donnelly Company. Coutan created the model in his Paris studio and shipped it to New York City later.

Mercury is standing at the top center of the work, depicted traditionally with a caduceus and wearing a winged helmet, with loose drapery concealing otherwise complete nudity. He is standing in a contrapposto pose in front of an eagle, wings outstretched, peering around his right leg. Two other gods are depicted to Mercury’s left and right: the male figure to his left is typically and officially deemed Hercules, though he lacks the god’s characteristic club and lionskin. Instead, the god is depicted among an anchor, cogwheel, anvil and hammer, a beehive, grapes, wheat ears and a sickle. Many of these are symbols of Vulcan, who is depicted with Minerva and Mercury in other works. He is also nearly naked, staring at Mercury above him. The female figure, Minerva, is resting her head on her left arm, looking down at a roll of parchment on her lap. She is depicted among a globe, a measuring compass, volumes of books and thick wreaths of laurel.

The work is seen as attempting to fulfill several goals: portraying the terminal itself as a new technology, representing the Vanderbilt family, and serving as an artistic piece to parallel European art and architecture of the time.”

Saturday, September 7, 2019 - The Glory of Commerce sculpture. Grand Central Terminal. New York City.
Saturday, September 7, 2019 – The Glory of Commerce sculpture. The work includes representations of Hercules, Mercury and Minerva. Mercury is nude and he is standing at the top center of the work. Grand Central Terminal. New York City.

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Saturday, September 7, 2019 - Grand Central Terminal. New York City.
Saturday, September 7, 2019 – Facade of Grand Central Terminal, the MetLife building and the Chrysler Building. Manhattan, New York City.

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