Location: Outside Schlesinger Library, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, MA
Aspect of the Oracle: Portentous sits beside the Schlesinger Library on the grounds of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. It is one of the seven oracle series sculpted by Marianna Pineda, a Buntin Institute Fellow at Radcliffe in the 1960s, and it was dedicated to Constance E. Smith, the first dean of Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study (1961-1970).
In Greek mythology, oracles were women gifted with divine power to receive and interpret prophecies through the gods. Produced while she was a fellow at Radcliffe, Pineda's Aspects of the Oracle series suggests oracles in different moods—"ecstatic, rapturous, jubilant, accusative, portentous, and exhausted."
Pineda depicts the oracle Portentous transferring knowledge through open palms, guiding the minds of those who study at the Institute. The statue serves as a "vessel for knowledge," stoic and powerful, offering "what help she could to those who wished to know more about the mysteries of the world." In doing so, the oracle pays tribute to the mission of curiosity, inquiry, and research pursued through Radcliffe's programs.
Challenging perception and inviting curiosity, the sculpture takes an unbalanced position. "The physical form is set off or liberated from normal worldly boundaries. The feet are not connected to the ground. They are kind of floating. And the arms are kind of out of control," observes sculptor and artist Nora Schultz, former assistant professor of Visual and Environmental Studies. "It is shifting into another sphere, where gesture, gravity, and weight mean something different."