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Seward Johnson’s ‘Awakening’ in EUR

Posted on Nov 22, 2009 | 15 comments

It’s always nice when people let me know about cool and interesting things in town that would be good to photograph, so I happily went to EUR this weekend after Omino71 let me know there was a giant sculpture set up in Piazza Marconi. He was definitely not kidding about the size of the scultpure….it was enormous! As I approached the square, the first thing I saw was a huge silver arm and hand reaching into the sky. I then saw the face, other hand, thigh, and foot all sticking out. Really incredible I thought, just like a giant colossus rising from the ground. Even more interesting because Piazzale Marconi is a huge rotary so the traffic swirled continuously around the sculpture. I wonder how stunned first time viewers of it were when they whizzed by in their cars.

I was not the only photographer that day. In the 30 minutes I was there I saw two other photographers with more professional looking cameras, as well as about four or five people shooting photos with their mobile phones. I looked at the sign on the edge of the grassy patch where the sculpture was buried and it read Seward Johnson, “Awakening.” I looked him up when I got home and his story is quite interesting, so I suggest you click the link and read up on him. It was also interesting to learn that this sculpture was created in 1980 and was located just outside of Washington DC for over 28 years. The thing I’m still not clear on is if this is a copy of the 70 foot statue or the original that has been flown over for installation. I found out via the blog Lazio Segreto, which also has a video of the installation, that it should be there for about two months, so head over while you can.

I love the top photo and how it looks like the giant’s hand is about to crush the buildings in EUR. I love the second for the contrast with the obelisk, which was built in 1959 and celebrates the life of Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor known for his work with radios.


  1. Oh wow, that is an awesome sculpture!

  2. Oh my god. That statue was located in one my favorite spots in DC.

    It's located in the city's Hains (sp) Park looking out into the Potomac.

    Your photos really captured the scale of this piece. Incredible.

  3. Hi there! Do you know that this sculpture is "running" up and down italy (and not only probably) in a special tour?
    The same was in Siracusa (South Sicily) into Ortigia's Square this august.


    • Dear Jessica thanks for reading Lazio segreto.
      I discovered just today your old article with the citation.
      Congratulation for the impressive pictures of Seward Johnson installation still at the Eur.
      Follow again my post to discover new exciting place or event.

  4. Il primo scatto è veramente magnifico!

  5. Wow, if it's on tour I really hope it'll land in Verona too… I like the contrast of the second shot but the first one is definitely my fav.

  6. The first one is my favorite too!

    NYC – As Luis said, the sculpture got moved a few years ago when Johnson sold it. I'm thinking that this is a second casting though, as I read of at least one other casting online.

    Simone – Yes, later online I read about the one in Siracusa as well! I wonder if it will travel elsewhere besides Rome. Valeria, can you imagine it set up next to the Arena in Venice?

    Amata – Grazie mille! Il tuo blog e' bello!

  7. Nice photo. leaves alot to the imagination…

  8. It was incredible to drive by it the first time, try to figure it out and not have an accident! My kids now ask to pass it on the way home from school. It's quite the amazing sculpture and definitely an interesting place to have it displayed!

  9. I have been wanting to see this statue in person ever since I heard about it mentioned in a book I was read awhile back. I was thinking I'd swing by the National Harbor (only about an hour away from me), but after reading this…..I guess not…hahaha. I'm actually kind of disappointed that I won't get to see it in person any time soon, but hope everyone near it gets to experience the feeling I would no doubt have had. Beautiful pictures; thank you for sharing!

  10. The sculpture is still at the National Harbor in DC. I believe the one shown above is a copy.

  11. During 2013 and 2014, there has been a version of this sculpture in Viterbo in central Italy in a grassy area lying immediately to the north of the medieval Papal Palace.

    I don’t know when it first appeared in Viterbo, nor do I know if it is the original or a copy. It seemed to be in very good condition during 2013 but it looked a bit neglected when I last drove past it in September 2014.

  12. Hello, do you know if this sculpture by John Seward Johnson is still in Viterbo? I passed in in 2014 when I was walking the Via Francigena. I am going again with a group of friends and wondered if it is still there. Now I know the story of it and can share with my fellow pilgrims. Thanks, Mary

    • Hi Mary,

      Unfortunately I don’t know! The one in Rome is no longer there and I actually had no idea it was in Viterbo for a time as well.

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