I don’t usually get too excited about public statuary, but the monument to the philosopher Spinoza in Amsterdam is more imaginative that most.
It’s also well positioned by the pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Zwanenburgwal canal, just before it joins with the Amstel river, a stone’s throw from the popular Waterlooplein market, and just around the corner from the National Opera and Ballet hall.
Of Spinoza himself there is not really much to see, as his entire body is draped in a cloak decorated with birds and roses.
Poking out above and framed by a splendid wig, is his face. Whether it’s a good likeness of the great man, or not, his thoughtful facial features are well modeled and radiate a certain presence.
The birds are rose-ringed parakeets, an exotic species which have become familiar all over Amsterdam, having first settled in Vondelpark a few decades back. They symbolise the immigrant nature of the city in the 17th Century, and that it still is today.
But my favourite part of the monument is the black marble icosahedron which symbolises the the universe as a model, created by the human mind.
The whole arrangement is mounded on an elliptical plinth, conveniently low enough to sit on.
You can even lean back against the icosahedron, and perhaps contemplate the quote etched into the plinth edge beneath you: ‘The purpose of the state is freedom.’
A good place to pause for a while, and perhaps the presence of the great philosopher and the icosahedron will help sharpen your own mind, and your philosophical thoughts.
Monumzent to Spinoza, Zwanenburgwal, Amsterdam. Sculptor: Nicolas Dings 2008.