Leie and Schelde in the Citadelpark

doorCatherine Boone

Leie and Schelde in the Citadelpark

By Catherine Boone

The Citadel Park in the Belgian city of Ghent is an ideal place to relax. Far away from crowds and yet so close to the city. This green oasis houses a large collection of trees and plants of which some of them are special and unique specimens. Atmospheric and hospitable to get to know each one of them from close by and listen to their stories. By bike or on foot, you often have beautiful vistas and surprising encounters. In previous posts I already introduced you to the disappeared citadel, the sculptures ’the Moorish’ Sakala by Louis Mast and ‘de Boetelingen’, chained for life by Jules Lagae, or the mysterious caves that my girlfriend Tine de Jong put in her blog being discussed.

The park is also known for its large pond which was unfortunately reduced by water loss to a dry and arid area with sparse ponds spread. No more fish and water plants to be detected. The ducks and the geese feel anxious, paralyzed, hardened, incredulous, sad and actually desperate. Even the other birds do not like it. That is disastrous for nature (!). How beautiful the pond was at other times, just look at the pictures below.

In any case, I hope that the problem will now be resolved quickly. I have been told that the work will start in the spring of 2016. Actually too late, I do expect that the waterfowl can overwinter under these harsh conditions. In spite of everything I dropped my eye on ‘Leie and Schelde’, a remarkable statue that one will find in the large pond.

The first thing that strikes me is the rock island where various human figures each adopt a different attitude. On the left side we recognize a naked woman who reminds me of a Venus while a man sitting against a rock on the right is more like the god Neptune. She is busy making her hair style. Originally Lalaing offered the image under the title ‘Venus as a symbol of Beauty in its classic size’. The image was given a new name: ‘Leie and Schelde’. She as Leie, he as Schelde. Perhaps thanks to this post factum substantive relationship with Ghent, this statue of this Brussels sculptor was given a prominent place at the World Exhibition of 1913. Two people as a symbol. To put the allegorical show extra in the bronze, we also see two children in the vicinity of Leie and Schelde. Does this refer to the tributaries the Dender and the Durme? It is also possible that the children do not represent the tributaries but rather the other watercourses that the city of Ghent has: de Lieve and de Rietgracht. Each of them has a special quality: while one child is resting, the other child looks up to the Leie. The swirling leaves illustrate the rich nature.

The statue was designed by the Belgian painter-sculptor Count Jacques de Lalaing who had already noticed with the bronze sculpture group ‘Tigers contest a prey’, a masterpiece from 1910 that could be met at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. Only in the year 1951 the image was moved to the Citadel Park. The statue ‘Leie and Schelde’ was inaugurated on 12 February 1913, just before the World Exhibition held in Ghent in that year. The statue adorned the corner of the Kortrijksesteenweg and the then Citadellaan (the current Charles de Kerchovelaan), the location where we will now meet a central reservation. (see photos below). In September 1918 the artwork was taken away by the German occupiers to melt it for the production of war material. Fortunately, someone made a plaster cast that was kept in the nearby Museum of Fine Arts.

Left: Citadellaan around the year 1907
Right: Citadellaan around the year 1917

After the armistice in 1918, the city got the picture back in various pieces and pieces. On September 7, 1919, they were all deposited for safekeeping at the Museum of Fine Arts so that it can be restored later. Eventually, the sculptor Leon Sarteel provided the casting in bronze of the artwork. He would have collaborated with the Ghent assistant sculptor Gustaaf Vander Meersche for this monument, but I’m not sure. In 1927 the new work got its place back to the Citadel Park but now in the middle of the large pond. A place that can be visited until today. Our artist Jacques de Lalaing was also not forgotten. He is immortalized in a street name, in particular a drive that we find at the large pond of the Citadel Park. This is also the end of our walk. Enjoy the slideshow below with some photos of the image ‘Leie and Schelde’ and its surroundings.

Photo 1: Catherine Boone, 2015
Photo 2-3: Postcards (private collection)
Photo 4-5: Catherine Boone, 2015
Photo 6-7: Postcards (private collection)

© All rights reserved, Catherine Boone, 2015

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