The law faculty has been reunited with its Minerva! – which took some doing: the newly cast floor had to be thoroughly tested first to see if it could bear the weight of the statue and its plinth. The plinth alone weighs two thousand kilos, and the statue another sixteen hundred. Minerva was transported in an especially made-to-measure shipping container.
It was quite a spectacle last week, seeing the stately effigy of Minerva being hoisted into a huge wooden crate. The container was a bespoke model, for obvious reasons - not only the marble statue itself, but also all its fragile protruding elements such as the shield, the owl seated at its foot, the headdress and the spear had to be protected.
A specialised transport company was engaged to carry out the relocation. They had a large crane at their disposal that could bear the weight of both the statue itself (sixteen hundred kilograms) and the plinth (two thousand kilograms).
The history of Minerva at the UvA dates back to the late the nineteenth century. The UvA took up residence in the Oudemanhuispoort in 1880, and dedicated the auditorium, or “aula”, in 1891. On that occasion, the financier Baron George Rosenthal, a member of the Amsterdam University Association (Amsterdamse Universiteits-Vereniging), generously donated the statue of Minerva. From then on, the Goddess of Wisdom would grace academic ceremonies held in the aula. F.K.A.C. Leenhoff, professor at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, designed the sculpture.
In 1960, the aula was relocated to the Lutheran Church; the nineteenth-century buildings of the Oudemanhuispoort were replaced with new structures. Minerva was given a spot in the main entry hall, witness to thousands of students from her lofty perch. Somewhere over the course of time an incident must have gone unreported: by the nineties, our Goddess was no longer holding a spear, but instead could be seen grasping a curtain rod. She was quietly mouldering away, and developed a fracture in her left arm.
In 1995, Sophie Josephus Jitta, lecturer in Italian and descendant of George Rosenthal, could no longer stand the state of neglect. She devoted herself to the statue’s restoration and provided Minerva with a replica of her original spear.
Minerva remained in the Oudemanhuispoort until January 2018. Last week, Minerva left her familiar surroundings to start a new chapter on the Roeterseiland.