THE GOLDEN BOY
By George Siamandas
Sitting 225 feet high at the top of the dome of the Manitoba Legislature, is Manitoba's best known symbol, the Golden Boy. On Nov 21 1919, the Golden boy was fixed in place. It capped the completion of the Manitoba legislature ending a stormy 6 years of construction. And it marked one of the few happy events in what had been a tumultuous year.
Architect Frank Simon had paid a lot of attention to details in the legislature, and saw the Golden Boy as an important part of the building. The Golden Boy was cast in bronze by French Sculptor George Gardet. It is 13.5 feet high and is covered in gold leaf. It is based on the work of sixteenth century Italian artist Giovanni da Bologna's statue of Mercury.
The golden boy faces north. North is where they thought Manitoba's future lay in resources like minerals and hydro electricity. In his right hand the golden boy holds a torch, while in the left arm a sheaf of wheat. He serves as a symbol of Manitoba's eternal youth and progress. The Golden Boy is intended to give the same kind of welcoming message to immigrants as the Statue of Liberty does in the US.
While on its way to Canada during WW1, the vessel was commandeered as a troop ship; so for several years it served as ballast crossing the Atlantic many times. But this was not the Golden Boy's only brush with war. In 1916, the Paris factory in which it was being cast was bombed by German shells.
At the top of the torch is an eternal light. But this light was not there from the beginning. It was installed in to mark centennial year 1967, and came on Dec 31 1966. Architecturally the Golden Boy finishes the top of the dome. When you compare it to Regina's legislature, their dome seems somehow unfinished.
Gardet also created the bison which stand at the entry to the staircase inside the legislature. Simon had watched over their design carefully and asked for early pictures of the proposed molds. Simon felt the bison in these early designs were too thin and asked that Gardet make them more massive. Simon also fended off proposals to cast them in plaster to save money.
Later at the opening of the legislature Simon was quite annoyed that the bison looked away from one another rather than towards the centre. Gardet also designed the statues of Solomon and Moses which stand in the legislative chamber. There is a wealth of design and meaning in the other statues on the grounds, in the limestone carvings on the building's front over the columns, and in interior frescoes.