Infinity Column, Between Art and Symbolism #Im4Ro

The Infinity Column, art or pure symbolism, rises like a sky pillar, a staircase to heaven, and an eternal ray of sun.

The Infinity Column was created by Constantin Brâncuşi – Romanian modernist sculptor, painter, folklorist, philosopher, and musician with a keen interest in science – as part of his Târgu-Jiu Trilogy, alongside the Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence.

“This is the message of my Pillar, guarded by the Table and the Gate: to burn like a flame.”

Constantin Brâncuşi
Coloana Infinitului Alina Dragu fotograf.jpg

Brâncuşi kept secret the true meaning of his creation.

So, at nearly 30 meters in height, made of cast- iron plated with brass, shining like a ray of sun that struck the ground, burning in the sunset, what does this never-ending sculpture stand for?

Infinity Column above, image by Alina Dragu, photographer

An Hymn to WW1 Heroes, the Infinity Column

We do know that it commemorates the sacrifice of the Romanians soldiers who, in 1916, defended the city of Târgu Jiu (where Brâncuşi was born in 1876) from the forces of the Central Powers.

As with any creation, it would have started with a beat of the sculptor’s heart, a flash of imagination of which he could catch only a glimpse out of the corner of his eye, but growing steady, perhaps keeping him awake at night… Till it emerged -in 1938- as the sum of his childhood memories, of his cultural background, and of his visions as an artist.

“I always sacrificed myself. I left my chisel and hammer and polished the material with my own hands. I let my sculptures play with the sky and the people, proving to the world that a sculpture of fire is possible.”

Constantin Brâncuşi

From Art to Symbolism

Pure geometry, the Infinity Column is a calm, simple repetition of the same rhomboid element called a “bead” by Brâncuşi. It is the image of a rosary strung on an invisible thread, towards heaven, in a mystifying, silent meditation.

If you see an hourglass motif, you wouldn’t be wrong either as the torment of the passing of time is embedded in many cultures.

Yet repetition, in art, conveys meaning. Repeating regular forms has been used in art since ancient times. Like in music, repeating the same elementary unit over and over again generates new narratives that, in turn, initiate new interpretations.

The Tree of Life in the Infinity Column

Often in Romanian folklore we have encountered the Tree of Life or the Cosmic Tree, the Sky Pillar. Through its roots it connects the earth with the sky (via the trunk), reaching the heaven (its branches). A hero would easily travels to the sky using his heroic powers (or aided by a Magic Bird in some cultures). But a mortal soul would require initiation, moral strength and above all a desire to climb this Cosmic Tree -through the air, inhabited by beneficial and malefic spirits- to heaven.

In Romanian folklore the Cosmic Tree is often represented by the Fir Tree (remember the Fir Tree Churches?), and it represents the starting point for any spiritual journey between earth and the cosmic areas.

In Christian mythology the same journey can be done by climbing a narrow staircase with high rungs leading all the way to the Gate of Heaven. In Gorj -where Brâncuşi was born- the burial custom involved a wooden trunk, the “tree of the dead” or the “spear of the dead” if the deceased was, sadly, in the prime of life.

Infinity Column by Brâncuşi, from Art to Symbolism

“Let’s call it a staircase to the sky”.

Constantin Brâncuşi on the Infinity Column

Any heroic act (be it spiritual -like standing for the truth- or that of a soldier fighting to defend his country) is based on sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of oneself. And any such heroic act facilitates the encounter of man with the Divinity -through salvation and trough entering heaven. This is the very core of Christianity.

The Folk Architecture in the Infinity Column

Yet stripped of symbology, the Infinity Column is an echo of the pillars supporting the porches of folk homes from Gorj, (where Brâncuşi was born), near Targu Jiu (and of neighboring counties of Valcea and Mehedinti).

Could the column be a prayer for the people amongst whom the sculptor was born and spent his childhood?

Stalp pridvor case oltenesti muzeul satului Valcean Arh Chiaburu
Porch pillar, Village Museum Valcea, photo by Architect Chiaburu

Is the Infinity Column a prayer for the dead? Is it a path towards heaven or the echo of folk architecture rooted in mythology and religion?

Perhaps still Brâncuşi can explain us the meaning of his creations: “A sculpture never ends on its pedestal, but continues towards the sky, on the pedestal – and into the ground.”

Happy National Brâncuşi Day – celebrated on this day, 19 February, the birthday of Brâncuşi.

26 Replies to “Infinity Column, Between Art and Symbolism #Im4Ro”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to a true Romanian! ❤️ And what a gorgeous picture of the Infinity Column. Love it!

      1. Exactly. That’s why I appreciate him so much. He was a true patriot. Too bad our government back then wasn’t as patriotic…

  2. I very much enjoyed your post about the Romanian artist Brâncusi, Patricia, and especially that repetition, in art, conveys meaning. As a consequence to this sentence, maybe everybody can find his/her own meaning to the artist’s infinite columns!
    Many thanks:)

    1. You always have a keen eye for art, Martina, no matter where your travels take you 🙂
      I think you are spot on, and it will make for a richer interpretation if each one of us would discover their personal significance to any work of art. 🙂

  3. The human being
    is time
    in his ephemeral time

    we ourselves
    with all the will to create
    will come back
    to the dust of the earth

    life wants
    pass on life
    that is so
    infront of us
    and after us

    we have nothing to prove to life

  4. Such a wonderful post Patricia! I learnt about Brancusi´s art and this column when I studied arts at school. I always found his artworks extremely beautiful and incredibly modern. What I didn´t learn at the time is that the Infinity Column is inspired by those pillars of Gorj folk homes. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. I always learn something new and so fascinating with your posts, Patricia. The reasons behind creation can be so many, internal or external, evident or abstract. But this is definitely an architectural marvel. Reaching for the sky always gives good vibes. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

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