The destroyed city

The Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine is best-known in the Netherlands for his expressive, poignant sculpture The destroyed city from 1947-1951, which he made to commemorate the bombardment of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940.


At the outbreak of the Second World War, he himself moved from Paris to New York. Shortly after his arrival he began making this almost classical male torso. An acquaintance located a piece of marble from somewhere, a piece of an old tombstone. It still bears the name of the deceased: ‘James Clements, mort en 1874’. Zadkine used the remains of the Victorian decoration still visible on the back of the sculpture to indicate some curly hair at the nape of the torso.

Thin engraved lines

The body parts – chest, abdomen, legs, buttocks and back – are indicated in tight volumes. Striking and characteristic for Zadkine are the thin lines engraved into the marble, with which parts of the body are indicated two-dimensionally, like in a drawing, for instance the hand on the leg.