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Saturday, September 27, 2008

1932 OLYMPIC GAMES MEDALLION BY HUGO BALLIN

Proposed Medallion for the 1932 Olympic Games - Collection of Phyllis Hansen - Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley - 2008 (click on image to enlarge)

Your Museum's electronic archives grow every day. Here, a newspaper clipping from an early Los Angeles newspaper (c. 1931) shows a medallion by the major California artist Hugo Ballin. The caption for the image reads: "Depicting Pallas Athena, diety of the Olympic Games, a seventeen foot medallion b Hugh Ballin A.N.A. will be hung at the entrance of the stadium."
It is assumed that the "stadium" would have been the Los Angeles Coliseum but it may have also been the swimming venue in Exposition Park.
Those who pay attention to the murals in public buildings in the Los Angeles area should be familiar with the splendid works of Hugo Ballin. His images grace the Griffith Park Observatory, the entrance of the historic Edison Building, the Burbank City Hall and the great Wilshire Temple ....and much more. Ballin came to Los Angeles in 1921 at the urging of Louie B. Mayer to work for MGM. He was trained as a classical painter, demonstrated in this medallion image.

For all of the beauty and sophistication of Bellin's works, there is a funny little mistake in this design. Lady Pallas Athena is the Goddess of the city of Athens (Athena). As such Her image would not have been utilized to represent the ancient Olympic Games that were dedicated to Lord Zeus. (The Gods got a bit jealous over these things.)

Just for ducks.... The artist who created the logo for the American Medical Association made a similar "classic" mistake, when he or she used the caduceus wand of Lord Mercury for the good doctors. Unfortunately Lord Aesculapius is the God of Medicine and his symbol is a forked stick with a snake entwined about it. The God Mercury or Hermes is the Deity of Commerce, Cattle Rustlers and Thieves. (Well, maybe the artist got the right image after all?)

The San Fernando Valley, in the heart of the Creative Capital of the World deserves a great Museum of history and culture.
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3 comments:

Alexandra Ormsby said...

I was very interested to see this original medallion by Hugo Ballin, for I am doing research on him for a friend who has one of his original paintings. I have seen his murals at Griffith Observatory, at the Times Rotunda in downtown LA, at the Edison building and at 433 No. Spring Street, formerly called the Design Center building, but it looks as if they are making lofts there now. I am sure they will leave his 1930+ tilework murals because they add so much to the building. Please let me know if the San Fernando Museum has this Medallion, and if it was actually used. Thank you. Alexandra Ormsby

Alexandra Ormsby said...

I was very interested to see this original medallion by Hugo Ballin, for I am doing research on him for a friend who has one of his original paintings. I have seen his murals at Griffith Observatory, at the Times Rotunda in downtown LA, at the Edison building and at 433 No. Spring Street, formerly called the Design Center building, but it looks as if they are making lofts there now. I am sure they will leave his 1930+ tilework murals because they add so much to the building. Please let me know if the San Fernando Museum has this Medallion, and if it was actually used. Thank you. Alexandra Ormsby

John Crosse said...

Very nice piece of history. For a look at Ballin's medallion being hoisted into place on the Colisem's peristyle go to my article at http://socalarchhistory.blogspot.com/2011/02/neutra-schindler-california-art-club.html in which I linked to your blog. Thank you. John Crosse