This is one of the most famous works of Josefina de Vasconcellos. She was an English sculptor of Brazilian origin who worked in bronze, stone, wood, lead and perspex. She was at one time the world’s oldest living sculptor. She lived in Cumbria much of her working life.
This is her Reconciliation sculpture. It represents the reconciliation of those divided by war.
Josefina said “The sculpture was originally conceived in the aftermath of the War. Europe was in shock, people were stunned. I read in a newspaper about a woman who crossed Europe on foot to find her husband, and I was so moved that I made the sculpture. Then I thought that it wasn’t only about the reunion of two people but hopefully a reunion of nations which had been fighting.”
Oliver Schuegraf wrote the following about this sculpture in his book “The Cross of Nails”.
“What the eye encounters are the figures of two people, male and female, in a close embrace. Both have fallen to their knees. Bending far forward, they lean upon each other. It is the only way in which they can bridge the gap that has grown between them. And now they link their two kneeling bodies, to form a bridge. They prop their hands on one another, to find a hold. Comforting, protecting, one of the man’s hands lies on the woman’s head. Both heads are pressed close together, her forehead resting on his shoulder.
“A bridge of reconciliation has been built. The embracing arms hint at a strong and enduring link. Yet still the gulf is not fully bridged, and the knees of the couple are still widely separated. The process of reconciliation is not yet complete. However, the embrace gives a strong foretaste of that which is to come, and of how one day it might be.”
It was donated to Coventry Cathedral by Sir Richard Branson in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Identical sculptures have been placed in Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, at the site of the Berlin Wall and in the grounds of Stormont Castle, Belfast.
These are all places that, like Coventry, have experienced conflict and embraced reconciliation.