Boston’s Missing: “Quest Eternal” at the Pru

Quest Eternal, Donald De Lue, Prudential Center, Boylston Street, Boston

“Quest Eternal” reaches for the heavens

Anyone who remembers the original Prudential Center, before it was converted from a windswept plaza to a comfortable shopping mall, remembers the giant statue. Called “Quest Eternal,” it occupied the Boylston Street side of the complex atop a tall bronze post. You couldn’t miss it.

A giant male nude rising as if taking flight, he reached up to the stars, the heavens, or the top of the Pru. If you looked closely, you noticed his improbable musculature, made more prominent by his twisted pose. Done in the mannerist style, the figure had elongated, almost prehensile, toes and a huge chest. His face, way up there above sidewalk level, wore a shocked and somewhat dismayed expression. Well, if I was naked on the north side of a tall building in a Boston winter, I’d look pretty darn dismayed, too.

And then he disappeared.

“Quest Eternal” on Boylston Street

Called “Quest Eternal,” the statue was created by Donald Harcourt De Lue (1897 – 1988) and was made of bronze and granite. The Boston Art Commission describes “Quest Eternal” this way:

“Twisted in a dramatic pose, this 27-foot tall male figure reaches toward the sky. The muscular nude brings to mind ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as the work of Renaissance-era artists, who often looked to classical art to inspire their choice of subject matter and style. Here, the sculpture also fits in with the modern urban landscape and parallels the bold verticality of the neighboring Prudential Tower, completed three years before the sculpture’s installation.”

Donald De Lue, Sculptor

Donald De Lue, Sculptor, Quest Eternal, Prudential Center, mannerist, Boylston Street, Boston

Donald De Lue

Mr. De Lue was an American sculptor best known for public monuments in the heroic style. Born Donald H. Quigley in Boston, to an Harry T. Quigley and Ida M. De Lue, he grew up in a middle-class family. He took the name De Lue at the age of 21 from his mother’s side of the family. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and apprenticed with sculptors Robert Baker, Bela Pratt, Richard Reccia. Mr. De Lue moved to Paris after World War I to further his studies. He established a studio in New York City in 1938 and lived with his wife, Naomi, in Leonardo, N.J.

Among his works, Mr. De Lue made sculptures for Omaha Beach and the Federal Court Building in Philadelphia. His “Rocket Thrower” was the theme sculpture for the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City.

The Eternal Quest Interrupted

Quest Eternal, Donald De Lue, Purdential Center, Boylston Street, Boston, sculptureThe sculpture was cast in one piece, probably at the Vittorio Lera Artistic Foundry at Viareggio, Italy, which Mr. De Lue had used for previous works. This is unusual for such a large piece — it weighs five tons — because large sculptures are often cast in pieces and then welded together.

The monumental statue adorned Boylston Street for 47 years until it was removed in 2014 during construction. A new building now occupies his spot and replaces the double stair that once gave viewers a good look at his face. As he was up so high and turned away from the sidewalk, that was the only way to really see his face.

At 27 feet tall and weighing five tons, “Quest Eternal” is no small thing and moving it to a new location will take some work.

Not that a new location has been found — that I know of. I have not received a response to my inquiries about his status from the Prudential Center. In the meantime, Boston’s mannerist nude remains in storage and out of sight.