Included in Carrere & Hastings’ design for the monumental white marble New York Public Library were two decorative bronze flagpole bases on either end of the broad balustraded terrace outside the main entrance. Designed by Thomas Hastings, the ornate sculptural bases teemed with allegorical and symbolic representations in keeping with the Beaux Arts style of the building itself.
Sitting on pedestals of Tennessee marble, each base rests upon the shell of four bronze turtles, representing Time. Figures of Discovery, Conquest, Civilization and Adventure sit at each corner, while between each figure is a medallion of one of the four races: Asian, American Indian, Caucasian, and Negro. Above each figure is an owl, symbolizing Wisdom and encircling the base of each pole are the signs of the zodiac.
The bases were executed in the studios of the Menconi brothers and cast at the Tiffany Studios foundry in Long Island City. While Raffaele Menconi was the sculptor of the finished bases, his brother Joseph assisted with the plaster models. Italian-born Raffaele had a reputation for his clear understanding of the 16th Century Italian Mannerist style basic to Hastings’ design.